But What Happened Next?

Martin Place, Sydney. Source

The realities of the fast-paced world we live in is that our attention spans are short – a story goes big on the news and it makes headlines for a week or two and then the public has moved on to bigger and better things. One of the quirks in the Western world is that most of us live lives so hugely different to those of the people who are portrayed in the media’s “current” disaster. Very rarely do bad things happen in our own cities or neighbourhoods – so it’s hard to relate to those people whose suffering is greater than our own, and so our attention wanders after a while.

Studying the controversial TIME magazine cover of a mutilated Afghan woman named Aisha, the talk turned from the controversy of ethics in the media to the ending of Aisha’s story. None of us in the group knew what happened and after a quick Google search we found out that Aisha was taken to California, got re-constructive surgery and now lives in the U.S. as she’s been adopted by a Afghan-American couple.

Discussing any number of big news stories, it was hard to find anyone who’d followed up after the initial fifteen minutes of fame and attention awarded to the events. Thus came the realisation that we Westerners have a difficult time keeping our attention on one thing.  The Internet means we have an unlimited amount of information at our fingertips, but rarely do I use theis vastness to explore past the bare facts presented to me in a news article a friend linked on Facebook. Only in the past week did I Google the endings to some big news stories – something I’d never bothered to do out of laziness.

Another problem is the abundance of pop culture websites – they report the bare minimum and often in a jaunty, witty manner that catches and keeps the attention of the reader for the next five paragraphs. It’s so hard to find un-biased information about important topics as a lot of authors on pop-culture websites let their opinions colour their articles. Because of the relatability of the pop-culture websites (which – let’s admit it – are much easier reading than most other news sites) most people will only read the biased, glibly-written articles and won’t seek any further information.

But, what happens when an event occurs in our own neighbourhoods? I remember the exact moment I found out about the Sydney Seige last year. I remember where I was, who told me and my reaction to it. It just shows how self-centred I am: I haven’t Googled the fate of the Nigerian schoolgirls taken by Boko Haram (“Bring Back Our Girls”) but the Sydney siege has been seared into my memory – and I wasn’t even in the country during the attack.