The sharing phenomena still happens occasionally with particular movies or books that “catch on”, and all age-groups tuned into new television concepts like “Survivor” and “American Idol.” Now and then we’ll drop everything and find the nearest television to watch a news event; I recall strangers crowded into my Boston office to watch the O.J. Simpson jury returning in 1995.
The recent Zimmerman trial also attracted wide interest. For some reason, years after “Roots”, the subject of race connects us as it still seems to divide us, mostly I suspect because the division serves a political end. However, other political events, once viewed by wide, diverse audiences, like presidential debates, have lost their impact. We get excerpts, chosen by a media that, even when not biased, is overwhelmed like the rest of us. Even as we get those short blasts of news stories moving quickly from subject to subject, more news and previews of programming-to-come travel across the bottom of the television screen: we have no time to absorb and think. One day’s leading story is gone the next day, rarely followed up.
Newspapers, which give us more in-depth coverage, are losing readership, as people choose to grab whatever shows up on their computers and related gadgets. The entertainment things catch on with an age group: my grandchildren’s entire generation seems to have learned something called “the Harlem Shake” on YouTube. But I’ll bet the other generations reading this don’t know about it — and trust me, you don’t need to — as all generations knew about, even if they didn’t approve of, Elvis and the Beatles.
When it comes to news for adults, without reporters and editors the information from the Internet may or may not be accurate; so not only are people easily learning a wide variety of things, what they learn may not be so. This causes a further cultural divide, among those who know, those who don’t know, and those who “know” what isn’t true.