abstract with woman's shocked face looking at human form with television for a head

As a Millennial, I was raised in a world where technology was rapidly advancing and shaping how we consume information. Growing up, I was exposed to an endless stream of pop culture that often distorted my sense of reality and led me to search for meaning in places where there was none.

In his seminal work “Entertaining Ourselves to Death,” Neil Postman sheds light on technology and media’s profound impact on our culture and society. He argues that television has changed how we think, communicate, and understand the world.

In this blog post, I want to delve deeper into pop culture’s role in shaping our reality and examine how it has contributed to the rise of nihilism and existentialism. Through media literacy and self-awareness, we can ally these juxtapositions and find meaning in a world where it often seems elusive.

The Power of Pop Culture

The impact of personalized algorithms on our media consumption is undeniable. Services like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Prime use algorithms to guide our attention in specific directions and to organize content, making it easier for us to consume. However, these algorithms don’t just respond to our tastes; they also shape and influence them.

Creating a “classificatory imagination” through genre categorization is a cultural transformation that has occurred with the advent of streaming. Streaming possibilities have inspired a new way of viewing the world through genres, labels, and categories. This helps shape our own identities and sense of place in the world.

Reinforcing popular content through algorithmic promotion is another important aspect of pop culture. Once a trend starts to catch on, algorithms can direct even more attention toward it. This can be seen in the success of Netflix’s latest Korean drama, “Squid Game,” which has become the platform’s biggest-ever series launch. The algorithmic promotion of widely watched content significantly impacted its success.

The Consequences of Pop Culture

The classification of culture can limit our exposure to specific categories and voices, shutting us out from diverse perspectives and experiences. This can be limiting or even harmful, as we’ve seen with the spread of misinformation on social media.

Our social connections are also profoundly impacted by the culture we consume. The labels and genres we encounter can shape our tastes, influences, and the people we interact with. It’s essential to consider the impact of the classificatory imagination on our relationships and communities.

Misinformation is a growing problem on social media, and the spread of false information can have serious consequences. How culture is classified and organized can contribute to this problem by amplifying certain voices and perspectives while suppressing others. As a lifelong non-profit supporter and former broadcast producer, I understand the importance of media literacy and its role in shaping our understanding of the world. We must remain vigilant and critical of the information we encounter, especially in the age of social media.

The Intersection of Existentialism and Nihilism

It’s important to note that my generation and those that follow have shown an underlying penchant for philosophies that compartmentalize life experiences. Where we cannot find meaning, we attribute it to a more generalized viewpoint stretching two powerful philosophical frameworks over our existence: existentialism and nihilism.

Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual freedom, choice, and responsibility. It suggests that life has no inherent meaning or purpose and that it is up to each person to create meaning and find purpose.

Conversely, nihilism is the belief that life has no objective meaning, truth, or value. It is often associated with feelings of despair and hopelessness and a rejection of traditional values and beliefs.

With its endless entertainment and distractions, pop culture can lead us to search for meaning in all the wrong places. In a nihilistic world, it’s easy to become lost in searching for fulfillment and ignore the deeper, more meaningful aspects of life. However, embracing media literacy and self-awareness can ally these existential and nihilistic tendencies and create a more fulfilling and meaningful existence.

The Path to Media Literacy and Self-Awareness

Pop culture, as a product of algorithms and personalized recommendations, can shape our reality and lead us to search for meaning in places where there is none. However, by becoming media literate, we can better understand the workings of algorithms and personalization and how they influence our cultural landscape.

By reflecting on our media consumption and the cultural influences that shape our lives, we can cultivate a deeper sense of self-awareness and resist the pull of pop culture’s impact on our reality.

Allying Existentialism and Nihilism

Existentialism and nihilism, two philosophies that Postman and others have explored, can be seen as conflicting forces in our search for meaning. However, by combining media literacy and self-awareness, we can ally these philosophies and find a balance between our desire for purpose and the realities of a nihilistic world. By becoming more aware of the cultural influences in our lives and actively shaping our reality, we can find meaning in a world where it may seem to be in short supply.

The path to media literacy and self-awareness is essential in navigating the complexities of pop culture and the algorithms that shape our cultural landscape. By understanding the workings of these algorithms and being mindful of our cultural consumption, we can ally the existential and nihilistic tendencies that pop culture often perpetuates. Let’s make a conscious effort to be media literate and self-aware and shape our cultural landscape in a meaningful and fulfilling way.