Living in interesting times is trying enough without having to contend with fluff.
Serious problems confront the country and the world, and even as we’re examining and debating and arguing and saying “lol” and “smh” a lot, fluff is gathering in gobs around our knees and occasionally rising as high as our hips, impeding forward motion and generally getting us down.
Fluff, I should explain, is the steady onslaught of superficial, meaningless and ultimately worthless information that appears on social-media screens every day. Not that it rises to the level of genuine information. I just hesitate to use the word “crap” in a family newspaper.
“Well, don’t look at the fluff,” you say, and I try not to. But that’s like trying not to look at the litter that collects around interstate off-ramps. The litter is there, the traffic light is red and what’s a person supposed to do, stare at the floor mats?
Here are some examples, found when I was searching the internet the other day. I don’t recall what I was looking for, but I’m sure it wasn’t any of the items I saw on the search engine I was using.
“Eighteen times Kate Middleton looked like a real-life Disney princess,” “How to wash your pillows the right way” and “Mom throws 24-person birthday party for just $230.”
Now first, why would I want to see Kate Middleton looking like a real-life Disney princess at all? These headlines are written to impede progress, to shove us off the track of brisk industry and into a sunny meadow full of plastic flowers, which we’re supposed to start picking: “Dog helps owner make sandwiches,” “Worm found wiggling in candy bar” and “55 things grandparents should never do.”
Stories about “the royals” constitute a surprising percentage of the fluff that’s bogging me down. “Adorable photos of royals on their first day of school,” “British royals you probably didn’t know were left-handed,” “Royals with cute animals” and “Royals who dared to bare their legs.”
Yes, “Royals who dared to bare their legs.” Are people actually peering at Queen Elizabeth’s sedate and impeccably correct knees, wondering if the unseasonably hot summer drove her to bronzing cream? The world is in crisis, I say sternly. Looking at royal legs, or even at Prince Harry with a duckling, gets us nowhere.
Much of the fluff includes references to people unfamiliar to me. Take this one: “Ashley Graham praised for rocking latex during pregnancy.” I don’t know if Ashley Graham acts in movies, is an insurance salesperson or a soccer player, but I’m chagrined to report I have in fact seen the picture of her rocking latex. She looked exactly like a candied apple.
Mixed in with celebrity fluff is domestic fluff. “How TV dinners changed mealtimes forever,” “Bread boxes are coming back” and “100 must-do things to get your house ready for fall.” (We get ready by doing one thing. We take the air conditioner out of the window.)
But do you see what I mean? Every day we venture onto electronic media, seeking enlightenment and the correct spelling of “terrarium,” and every day, fluff rises up and engulfs us.
Take that party I mentioned earlier: “Mom throws 24-person birthday party for just $230.”
“ ‘For just $230?’ ” I thought. The parties I threw for my daughters – a dozen cupcakes, a party store pinata and $15 worth of junk to spill from the demolished pinata’s stomach – might have added up to $40. Even allowing for inflation, I have to wonder, what is Mom spending the other $190 on, Jell-O shots for the parents? Preferred stock shares for the goody bags? Branding?
How can I meet the serious challenges of today if I spend all my time trying to disengage myself from fluff tentacles? From now on, I will avoid everything that doesn’t apply directly to whatever critical information I’m seeking. So help me.
But first: “Thirty celebrities who look totally different with glasses.”
Write to Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.