“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority,
it is time to pause and reflect.”
It’s always a bit posey to put quotes on a website. It’s second only to the ultimate sin of a quote on an inspirational poster. But Mark Twain was onto something here. If he were alive today, he’d be quoting himself, but would probably change the line slightly. "Whenever you find yourself agreeing with a bunch of angry people on social media, it is time to pause, reflect, and delete your account.”
Social media, curated for you by an algorithm, plus the 24-hour rolling news thing, and the fact that it's so easy to click from one thing to the next, means there's no room for grey areas any more and you absolutely must have an opinion on any given subject. You are either for or against, in or out, pro or con, left or right, black or white, believer or sceptic. In 2020, as I write, it seems it's the stuff we’re against that defines us. We feel more strongly against things than for things, and identify with others who feel the same, and anyone who doesn't feel the same is an enemy.
It’s all down to road rage of course. We get angry in cars because cars are impersonal things. You’re in a box, with a screen, in your own little world, making instant judgements about other people behind other screens, in boxes, all rushing to judge you. And there’s no time to stop and chat, to actually look a person in the eye, and realise that you were wrong to shout “Wanker!” at the little old lady with cancer who forgot to signal as she turned left.
We’re all behind screens now, looking at other people behind screens, and either liking or loathing them. And so, and I appreciate this is a long-winded introduction now, and you only clicked here by mistake anyway, we get to the point. With the whole world split into two camps on any subject, we are trapped in downward spinning spirals. The more entrenched our views become, the more extreme views and opinions come to dominate the news agenda and skew our thinking further, and the more entrenched our views become again, until we spout them without questioning them any more.
The echo chamber and the filter bubble are things we’re all familiar with now. But awareness has done nothing to diminish the problem. The world has gone bipolar on everything and we've forgotten that it's possible to have more than two opposed opinions on any given subject. The reality is as its always been, most of us are not in one of two camps at either end of a line, most of us are somewhere on a 3D spectrum, neither left nor right, neither pro nor anti, neither believer nor sceptic. We're in our own position and it changes as events and people change.
Take climate change. Most people are not at the extremes (ignorance of the science at one end, total conviction that we're doomed at the other) yet that's the picture we're presented with. Same with Brexit. As someone who loves Europe, I've always had my doubts about the EU. Do I want the patch-work quilt of Europe, over time, to become a homogenous, one-colour duvet, where the same rules, same money, same mindset, same cuisine, and the same language (English) are applied right across the board? No. Do I have a problem with immigration? No. But if I'd voted in favour of Brexit I'd have been branded a xenophobe and a racist by people who saw themselves as "pro-European".
So I voted to remain in the EU even though I could see sound pro-European reasons for leaving. And all because people at either extreme controlled the debate and made it black and white, with no room for shades of grey, let alone colour. There was no appetite for weighing up the pros and cons and balancing a range of arguments. Everyone fell straight into one of two echo chambers and got stuck there, marvelling at the stupidity of the other lot. And those feelings fester to this day, because this kind of thing, though addictive, is deeply unsatisfying. It's a dangerous oversimplification of things. A distortion of reality.
This is where documentaries and movies come in. Good documentaries and movies take us through shades of grey and into a realm of colour where we can suddenly see things differently. They show us that it's possible to have multiple points of view, or even to be content with having no view at all until we have a better grasp of what's going on. Great documentaries and movies give us an angle we may never have thought of before and open our eyes to the bigger picture.
So that's why Bottle Alley Films makes documentaries and dramas from unexpected perspectives. By stepping away from polarised opinions and exploring a range of alternatives, we see things differently, if only for a little while, and that's a healthy way to be.
That's enough of the self-indulgent stuff for now. Time to produce something decent for you to watch.
See you at the TV Quick awards!