Media Anxiety

One of my friends, Don, is always getting pissed off at the media for various reasons, but one of his big complaints (okay, besides that they’re outright lying to us most of the time) is that people have ridiculously short memories about certain subjects. In particular, they forget that every new form of media/technology has usually been accompanied by a counterpart scare in society.

In my case, I can remember the various Video Games scares, the D&D scare, the Internet Scares (they started right after the WWW became commonly used) and of course the Heavy Metal scares (it’s making our kids into Satanists!) of my youth. (My grandparents and great aunts were terrified of Ozzy Osbourne. Not realizing that he’s normally as stoned as a statue.) It’s almost like the media make money off scaring people (hmmm…imagine that?) but a new article in Slate by researcher Vaughn Bell shows that perhaps there’s just something endemic in humans that any change is accompanied by fears. So maybe the media in the end is just acting as a mirror to what’s already there?

My favorite quote from the article:

The writer Douglas Adams observed how technology that existed when we were born seems normal, anything that is developed before we turn 35 is exciting, and whatever comes after that is treated with suspicion.

Either way, I think we need to all just chill out. There’s an old saying that I’ve loved since I heard it, and is embedded in Rob’s personal book of quotations:

There are two kinds of fools in the world.

One fool says: If it’s old, it’s better.

The other fool says: If it’s new, it’s better.

For those who want to learn more, here’s an interview with the writer from NPR’s On the Media from earlier this week.


I live in the city of London, Ontario- also known as “The Forest City” because of the sheer number of trees interwoven in between the buildings. In fact, if you go up on a local hill and look down upon the city from certain angles you won’t even see a city, you’ll see a forest with buildings sticking out of it.

Because of this it’s fair to say that I’d always taken it for granted that people grew up surrounded by trees and nature until I went on my first trip to the American city of Detroit. Even Toronto and Hamilton have trees (just not as much as London), but the first thing that struck me about Detroit was their absence. Sure, you find them once you get out into the suburbs, but the core of Detroit it just miles and miles of pavement with only a few scraggly trees to show for it here and there. It felt so dead to me, and once I’d realized it was the lack of trees I knew why.

I think we need trees, both because of the air they process, and perhaps on a deeper psychological level where they keep us in contact with our place as part of the biosphere. Not to get all Avatar on you, but I do think we easily forget we are part of the natural life of this planet, and we need to think of ourselves more as custodians and less as occupants. Without the different parts of the biosphere, from plankton to trees, the system will begin to fall apart, and we’ll be wiped out eventually by our own stupidity and short-sightedness.

Not to end on such an unhappy note, go check out this cool story from the blog IslaFormosa that inspired this post.