The pop culture mantra goes something like this: junk food is a poor substitution for a well balanced meal; it is only temporarily satisfying and has far less nutritional value than something prepared with unprocessed ingredients; junk food is a poor lifestyle choice. There’s a lot of reasons not to eat junk food. It’s bad on your system, it has a lot of extra salt and fat content, it makes you want to eat more junk but leaves you feeling kinda gnarly.
Much of the same can be said for Content Junk Food. What is Content Junk Food you ask? It’s what we’ve been seeing a lot of on social media lately in the form of narcissistic quizzes and mundane lists that contain warmed over information gleaned from Google. The quizzes I’ve found are merely a temporary diversion with a less than satisfying outcome. “Which Piece of Bedroom Furniture Are You?” After answering a series of multiple choice questions, of which many of the choices either don’t apply to me or are unrecognizable altogether, I may find out I’m a hamper. I am then invited to share this new insight with my friends, so they too can see if maybe they are a dresser or a night stand. It’s a formula that uses inclusion as it’s primary lure. These quizzes reenforce in-group psychology, with homogenous predetermined outcomes intended to make us feel like individuals.
What’s worse, are the lists, “Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Your Shoelaces.” Ten things that make no real difference in our day to day operations. Without context, these ten things are but factoids cluttering our thoughts like pits of licorice that get stuck between your teeth.
Real information has context. Real information leaves us with evocative questions. Real information feeds our minds, nourishes our intellect, and spurs discourse and debate. It leaves thought behind, that lingers, waiting to be pondered in depth. I’m not likely to debate the merits of being a hamper because I chose Miss Piggy as my favorite muppet.
When all we consume is junk, it’s no wonder I come away from the Social Media feeling kind of gnarly. It’s not that hard to provide meaningful content with context that encourages thought. In an industry where click counts have usurped meaning, it’s hard to still think of it as the Information Age.