It’s like that morning jolt of caffeine that many refuse to do without.
You can really do without it, but after years and years and years of getting it into your system, it’s literally a gentle yet insidious little thing that has crept up on you and then inside of you.
In short, it’s the drug of choice.
No, I’m not specifically talking about coffee or caffeine. Those are simply my analogies here. By the way, I love analogies and metaphors, don’t you? They’re so handy.
What I’m talking about is … titillation.
Dictionary.com defines “titillate” as “… to arouse, tease, interest or excite pleasurably and often superficially …”
Okay, let’s get to it. I’m talking about the media here. The media is the master of titillation. In fact, I’d say our entire nation is in a constant state of titillation. Actually, the whole world is being titillated at some point during the course of any given day. That’s unless you live entirely off the grid.
However, I dare say that those who live off the grid do plenty of self-titillation. They can pretend that they’re more virtuous because they live out in the woods, but they’re far from innocent.
I first became acquainted with titillation during my teen years, but it really took off in the early years of my journalism career. I once had a news director send me an email about promoting a particular story and in the email he said, and I quote …
“WRITE IT HOT!”
Write it hot. That means write it so that you capture and hold the attention of the viewing audience. Here’s my analogy. Make it pleasurably exciting by blowing it up just to the point before the balloon bursts. If the balloon bursts, you’re screwed because you’re probably lying, but blow it up enough to arouse and tease the audience.
This is really “Marketing 101” or “Advertising 101.” If you’re a red-blooded, American TV viewer – and who isn’t? – this hardly comes as a surprise to you.
Look … what I’m referring to here is the fact that YOU watch TV specifically for the purpose of entertainment and YOU – you know it’s true - want to be aroused, excited and pleasurably interested.
You want cheap thrills. No?
We live in a culture that’s soaking, sopping wet with entertainment and constant, pervasive titillation. We want this. We even think we need it. Titillation is the new, yet old, drug that has everyone hooked. And I mean hooked … as in … addicted.
As a media person, it cracks me up to hear people complain about the media. Believe me you, many people who work in the media would at least confidentially tell you that for every single complaint you have about the media, they’ve got several.
So please, cry me a river. I’ve cried up an ocean.
But here’s the thing. We live in a fallen world where the media is certainly a huge part of the problem. However, I always find it ironic and actually somewhat ugly how people blame the media for this or that and yet they themselves are playing a BIG role in making the media the way it is.
Do you watch “ratchit” reality television? Do you buy those supermarket “rags” at the checkout line? Are you visiting those online gossip pages?
WE ALL DO. That’s the point.
And so, what makes YOU so innocent when it comes to sins of the media? You’re clearly eating whatever you’re being fed, so media executives and producers are giving you more of that.
Ratings and supermarket rag sales don’t lie. Are YOU responsible for anything at all here?
Just because you’ve been given something … doesn’t mean you have to consume it.
Despite popular belief, there’s a significant amount of quality content in today’s media. However, much of that content struggles to remain on the air. Much of that content limps on wobbly legs.
Because it’s not titillating. That’s what everybody wants.
When is the last time you sat down and watched a documentary on “The History Channel?” When is the last time you watched “Washington Week In Review?” When is the last time you saw “Charlie Rose?” When is the last time you spent time viewing “C-SPAN” or “Book TV?”
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people say they find programs like that … “BORING.” No offense to Charlie Rose, C-SPAN or the others, but you catch my drift.
All of those programs and platforms are integral parts of the general media. Can we actually give them a round of applause? They’re actually trying to make this whole media thing work and you rarely hear people salute them. All I ever hear are people complaining about the media.
The very people who complain about the media being negative and bad never mention the positive things in the media. And yet those are the same folks who complain when they’re not being titillated. Titillation is a drug and we need rehab. We must wean ourselves from it.
We are addicted to titillation and over-stimulation. Many of us don’t even realize it. However, lots of us are indeed aware of this and we want more of this friendly heroin.
Please, let me clear here. I am NOT defending the media. Like many things in this fallen world, the media has filthy hands. But it’s also so very easy to point fingers at “the media.” I mean, who are you referring to when you blame, “the media?” That’s pretty general, isn’t it?
It’s like talking about “Them” or “They” without giving specifics. You know full well that if you keep it in general and generic terms, you’ll probably avoid trouble. It’s cowardly. You know that if you don’t point out anyone in particular, no one will retaliate.
But apart from all of that, let’s do this …
The next time you’ve HAD IT with the media, unplug your TV and your radio and disconnect your cell phone for 90 days. That’s all … 90 days. 90 days without television, radio and cell phones. People who live off the grid have done it for much, much longer than that.
OR … you can take action and actually file formal complaints about something you see or hear on specific media outlets. Which will it be? Will your titillation addiction allow either?
As I said, it’s like that morning jolt of caffeine that many refuse to do without.