2016 – the year people stopped reading. In fact, the year people stopped short of actually being sure they’d got the gist of something. Whether it was ‘pretty much’ knowing what leaving Europe meant, being advised who to mourn or suddenly developing strongly held views about something they can’t spell, the human race shrank back into a society only able to hold their attention long enough to read nothing more expansive than the Mail Online’s sidebar.
Herd mentality is far from a newly breached horizon, but thank God we only had the option of throwing the bathwater out of the window this year – perhaps next year the populace will be given the option of voting whether or not to bring back hanging, with scarcely a photo of Peter Sutcliffe and the headline, “TUT TUT” to help us form an opinion. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, a truism so keenly held that we are only given a little information in the first place to send our opinions off for stone-cladding.
The order in which we are asked our opinions and are given the requisite information is no longer a pertinent factor: reports on Google’s search analytics in the hours after the Brexit vote allegedly revealing “What is Brexit?” and “What happens if we leave the EU?” being eagerly tapped into the font of all knowledge. News reports showed vacant expressions offering the apology that they didn’t think their vote would count or that they hadn’t realised the implications of their choice – not once in the journey from their sofa to picking up a pencil for the first time in years did the notion occur to them. A map of Europe followed by an item of Syrian refugees was all they required.
Google has the answer to everything. More specifically, Wikipedia and IMDb hold the final answer to all life’s problems. There no longer seems any debate as to whether a fact is correct or an alternative opinion exists, should you feel the need to have an opinion in any way contrary to the status quo. The barometer of how fucked we are remains the first comments on any online newspaper article, from local rag to swankily-designed typeface. Outrage. Shock. Hatred. Devotion. Love. Not final words at a murder trial but commentary on anything from restaurant bills to the passing of television and wireless personalities.
“Like a lot of famous talented people they’ve done everything seen everything..got everything…nothing left but substance use to take them high again…..such a shame…they all seem to go in their fifties…RIP”
Some wise words from a Mail reader today on the death of George Michael, by many accounts a kind, generous person or a self-indulgent drug whore, depending on which article, situated next to each other, you deign to read – or at least ‘get the general idea’ of. Quite who seem to go in their fifties is unclear – Greeks? 80’s pop stars? Charitable benefactors? It got ten ‘likes’ so it’s clearly struck a chord, as well it might in a year so clearly cursed: a baffling claim at the best of times, though not perhaps in a year when “Brexit means Brexit” is seen as the answer to any sort of question.
As the last gasps of 2016 rattle, we perch on the edge of our seats as to whether we will have an oddly delayed nuclear war (do we throw our relatives into the garden before or after it drops?) or the next international incident prompts widespread “I TOLD YOU SO” bleating; but more than ever, there is little cause for genuine alarm. There are no more surprises, no more twists, no more guesswork. The answers are right at your fingertips – someone on catch-up said so.