The "Clickbait" Culture, Why Triviality is Your Greatest Enemy6:00:00 AMJeremy Schupbach
We’ve been talking a lot about beauty on Truth From the Heart recently, so I figured I would mix it up and talk about something else which is often overlooked but ought to be addressed: triviality.
For those that are unaware, Dietrich Von Hildebrand is very emphatic on the role that beauty plays in man’s life. He believes that man is a spiritual creature, and is destined for more than a merely material existence, and that beauty is the pathway by which man transcends the material conditions of his existence and lives in a robust, spiritual way.
As you can see, it is with good cause that we won’t shut up about beauty. BUT, someone needs to talk about the antitheses to beauty as well, of which there are three according to Hildebrand, ugliness, triviality, and boringness (1). Just as beauty can elevate man, these antitheses can pull him down and envelop him in an ever expanding matrix devoid of all meaning. Just as man must be a lover of beauty in order to fulfill himself, he must also abhor its opposites.
All of these antitheses are present in our lives, but it occurred to me that one in particular possesses an all-pervading influence throughout society at large.
If there is one thing our culture has right, it is that we despise the boring, mainly because we are spoon-fed on instant gratification. But therein lies the problem, we hate the boring so much, we are captivated by anything which offers even a modicum of interest. We would even prefer the ugly to the boring. And thus: we worship triviality.
Triviality is precisely that which offers a modicum of interest, but no more. Whereas true beauty exposes us to the depths of reality, in which we can lose ourselves in a holy awe; triviality captivates us in a painfully limited and finite way.
Have you ever felt like something was interesting, but you also knew that it was only a little bit interesting, such that almost as soon as you apprehend it the entertainment value expends itself, leaving you hanging, wanting more, so you go to the next interesting thing that is only a little bit interesting which the last thing conveniently presented as well, and so on and so on because every time you get interested you get let down and so you keep on trying but always get more let down, and by the time you finally get out of this vicious cycle you have blown an hour and a half and you hate your life?
Funny, that kind of sounds like every time I have ever gone on the internet.*
Well, I think we are all pretty well acquainted with the trivial. The problem with it? It pretends to be truly beautiful.
“The pseudo-beauty proper to a trivial work and the claim that the quality of triviality always contains, namely, the claim to be at least a positive aesthetic value as opposed to ugliness.” (2)
In other words the claim to fame of triviality is, “at least I am not ugly or boring.” Insofar as it is not these things it has the capacity to interest us, but it is not beauty proper. And so we get our “beauty fix” without being exposed to genuine beauty. This is DISASTROUS, because not only are we not exposing ourselves to beauty but we are removing our desire to do so.
Furthermore, not only do we lose the desire to behold beauty, but we make it much more difficult for ourselves to do so even if we should somehow get that desire back. Because to see beauty requires effort and commitment, in a very real sense, beholding beauty involves vulnerability and a willingness to be affected. Whereas, the trivial asks nothing of us; it willingly comes to us and grants us a few seconds of satisfaction; then it dissipates.
The more we settle for this kind of shallowness, the more we will fear the deliberate attitude that beauty asks. The man who is consumed by the trivial, “Dreads the effort involved in penetrating the depths of being; he wants to remain on the periphery… he passes with a light touch from one thing to the other.” (3)
If you feel like you now sufficiently understand the danger of spending time on trivial things, brace yourselves, because insofar as I can tell, most people not only enjoy triviality, not only do they embrace it and crave it, not only are they saturated by it, but they are verily DROWNING in it.
Everything in our society, and I mean EVERYTHING, is presented in and through the trivial. Advertisements, news stories, magazines, social freaking media, modern art. If something needs to be communicated, but it can’t be trivialized, then it pretty much can’t be communicated. We thrive on 30 second sound bites, two sentence long tweets, and those thrice-blasted infernal links at the bottom of the page that have come to be known as 'clickbait': “THE TEN COOLEST PICTURES EVER” “WHAT HAPPENED NEXT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND”
All of this is partially why our blog posts aren’t supposed to exceed 800 words, (present word count: 854, WHAT UP)
I don’t think I need to convince most people that we are suckers for trivial just-barely interesting things that don’t matter at all. But I do want to convince you of this: you shouldn’t be, you honestly need to be careful how much time and attention you spend on really irrelevant and erroneous things, because it affects your ability to be a lover of beauty, to be a great personality, and to lead a fulfilled life. And it isn’t just because trivial things take up so much time, but also because they make us more stupid and more lifeless.
“But I only look at my phone when I have to wait for something else and literally have nothing else to do… it doesn't waste any of my time”
Is that why all your trips to the bathroom get extended by ten minutes to check out that one article?
We are surrounded and inundated by triviality, and we need to be really, really careful not to let it ruin us.
*the aforementioned experience applies to every time you go on the internet with the exception of when you go on Truth From the Heart and read our stuff :)
(1) Dietrich Von Hildebrand, Aesthetics, p. 261
(2) Ibid 272
(3) Ibid 240