Sunday, July 21, 2013

What Khloe Kardashian Teaches Us About Advanced Media Consumption

Imagine seeing the following piece of "information" in People Magazine:

Khloe Kardashian is getting divorced.

I know, I know. Fascinating. But bear with me for a moment.

We can interpret this information on a purely literal level if we wish. Here are two possible reactions:

"Wow, really? I thought she really liked [whoever she was married to]!"
"This is news? This is stupid. I can't believe they are writing about this. Who cares?"

One of these reactions comes from a person who's interested in the factoid and who identifies with this celebrity. The other reaction comes from someone who identifies with feeling intellectually superior to this kind of information.

These two reactions may seem different to you, but in reality they're essentially the same. They share the same level of interpretive sophistication. Both readers (whether they like it or not) now know that this celebrity is getting divorced, and both readers take the information and react to it, judge it and absorb it. Both are examples of a fundamentally passive and reactive way to read.

What if there's a better way? Is there an active, creative and sophisticated way to consume information like this? Let's evaluate a different way to read and interpret this factoid by asking a series of open-ended questions:

"Why was this written?"
"What does that say about the readers of this magazine, or about our culture?"
"Where else do I see information like this?"
"Is this more or less common in our media, and why?"

These questions don't involve any judgment of the factoid. They're not emotional. Questions like these--even when combined with utterly useless information--can produce surprisingly useful ideas, thoughts and conclusions.

If you consider yourself a sophisticated media consumer, yet you still find yourself getting annoyed at articles about the Kardashians, consider using the art of meta-reading with all of the media you consume.

Develop a habit of asking meta-questions while you read. It will make your daily reading and information gathering more interesting, more fun, and far less irritating. It will enable you to talk to a much wider range of people. And it might even help you dispense with your superiority complex.

A side note: You will find it immensely profitable to use this information consumption technique with financial media. Immensely. Profitable.