We Need To Stop Being A Sound Bite Culture
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Politics and Activism

We Need To Stop Being A Sound Bite Culture

8 seconds is not enough information

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We Need To Stop Being A Sound Bite Culture

We have all heard it. That 15 seconds of someone's speech that will be a point of interest for any discussion. We live in a world inundated with information, most of it cut down to the few seconds of the juicy part. We only want to listen to the part of the story that interests us; all of the rest is just white noise we don't want to hear. We are a culture that likes the bite-sized pieces of information that are easy to swallow.

I say "we" because I did not realize this for the longest time. It wasn't until my senior year of high school that my government teacher introduced my class to the concept of sound bites and changed my entire view of not only the news, but of social media as well.

As our nation gets more and more political and more "news" is needed to be reported on in shorter amounts of time, sound bites have become the name of the game. They have also caught up to our shortened attention spans, on average spanning eight seconds. Compare that to when our parents were children in 1968, where sound bites were about 43 seconds. In the 1990s, CBS would not air a sound bite that lasted less than 30 seconds in an effort to encourage more informative discourse. In 20 years, it has been cut into almost a quarter of that amount.

We have become increasingly reliant on these sound bites to fuel our discussions without giving any heed to their context, or what came before or after them. The most recent example of this would be Melania Trump's speech from the 2016 Republican National Convention. Not long after her speech, a video popped up comparing her speech to Michelle Obama's speech from the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Calls of plagiarism erupted over the internet. Never mind the fact that the "plagiarized" lines were mostly cliche and could probably be heard in any political speech. The video lasted a little over a minute, but the way it was put, made it sound like Melania's writer hit copy and paste then made a few edits like a college student writing a last minute essay. Watching the whole video of each speech would definitely show a different story. For anyone who watched, it became one of the many points of contention about Trump's campaign and the Republican Party that really should not have been anything controversial at all.

Sound bites have not only invaded the media on television, but social media as well. "News" can spread like wildfire thanks to 30-second, shaky cell phone footage. People are all too eager to wipe out their smartphones and start taping something when they see it happening, but don't have it out before any escalation. The most obvious example of these are videos of police brutality. It is a terrible thing to see and we can be all to quick to judge someone based on these videos, but they did not capture what led up to the shooting, tasering, etc.

Instead of waiting for all of the facts to slowly come out, we grab onto the meager evidence that has been made available to us. There could be a lot more information than a short video can give us. As much as we try to espouse "innocent until proven guilty," we prefer swift justice, often with little information. More often than not, eye witness accounts and other information made available later refute the narrative set-up by the sound bite and media that uses them. We are destroying people's lives even more by simply not doing our research and being patient.

The lives of politicians, actors and actresses, servicemen and women and everyday people are being put at risk by our sound bite obsession. When you see the net controversial sound bite, take a step back. Look at what information is given and what is missing from those eight seconds. Then, go and do some research to see if the sound bite matches up to the story. Quit using eight seconds to justify an argument that may not even really exist. We need to revolt against this sound bite culture and learn to educate ourselves if the media won't show us the full story. So before you start the next flame war, maybe open up Google and do a little searching first.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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