Balancing act

Children need to be exposed to popular culture in moderation

The concept of popular culture has long been an integral part of our society and it’s a challenge to stay away from it. Nothing can dumb us down if we are strong enough to create a balance in our lives. A person should be in total control of the things that affect them. We cannot change the world but we can be wise enough to select things which would bring positive results in us.

As an educator I feel that parents and educationists should understand their roles and guide the younger generations to follow the most authentic source of information, like books.

Parents should also be smart enough to expose their children to popular culture in a balanced way which will affect them positively and eventually add to their intelligence. Follow a simple rule - too much of anything is bad.

From Ms Shikha Dixit

Educationist based in Sharjah


Popular culture is not challenging our minds enough

I always wondered if my inability to tolerate the music being played on the radio was just a natural side effect of me getting older or if music really was becoming worse. I decided to look it up a while back and I came across an article by the journal Scientific Reports, the analysis was based on 455,000 songs from 1955 – 2010, which found that music actually has been getting worse. The analysis measured three criteria that determined the quality and depth of a song’s music and lyrics and found that there was a steady decrease since the 1960s in quality and depth when it came to pop music.

Television shows are tricky because on one hand the quality of television content has developed drastically as cultures have become more open to controversial ideas but conversely you have the alarming rise in popularity of reality television shows. These almost always promote the most outrageous and unacceptable behaviour, which fuels television stars to continue behaving as such, for their 15 minutes of fame. It begins a vicious cycle that normalises said behavior and has children influenced because they see these stars become rich and famous through such means.

I think, popular culture does dumb us down but if we actually wanted our mind stimulated then we would’ve searched for something that serves that function. Instead, we prefer to switch off and avoid anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or uneasy - two feelings which are necessary for development.

From Mr Georges Joubran

Account executive based in Dubai

Historical context

Popular culture is necessary to dispute elitest thought

Is “popular culture” good or bad? To engage in a debate on this topic, we must first address one of the most notoriously complex concepts — culture. Perhaps it is because everything we do and say can be called culture, and that culture becomes an ambiguous set of standards, assumptions, and problem-solving methods. This is precisely why we must be careful when dealing with the compounded and overused term.

The term is generally used as the opposite of “high culture”. If “high culture” represents the most sophisticated and abstract artistic styles created by human beings, popular culture is the “low culture” that the undereducated or even uneducated mass could have access to. In this sense, popular culture challenges the elitist establishments. If “high culture” reminds people of traditions or classics that closely tied to a memory of the past, popular culture is the tool for each generation to take control of their future.

If you ask me whether popular culture is good or bad, I’d say that it really depends on what specific type we are talking about. Saying that popular culture is dumbing us down without acknowledging the historical contexts within which many forms of popular culture were produced and consumed is to say that there is no wisdom in the artistic forms produced by the masses and for the masses. The idea that the so-called “high culture” produced by a certain group of elites should be enforced on everyone is, to say the least, dangerous.

From Dr Yuting Wang

Sociology professor based in Sharjah

Learning opportunity

Not everything that is a product of popular culture is harmful for society

I think that content that popular culture creates can be beneficial to us because it sometimes helps us think out of the box and of different possibilities. However, it depends on each person who is consuming it. For example, some television shows make us want to research a topic and discuss. There are surely some people that don’t develop and question what they consume and that’s a problem. Right now, and as a product of popular culture, we have unlimited access to information. You can learn how to cook and fix a flat tyre in few hours and it’s all available on the tip of your finger. There are other popular shows that are based on scientific research and such but there will always be people who would choose to watch reality television shows instead. So it it’s up to people to take advantage and progress or not. However, there are some certain side effects that come with popular culture. Sometimes it promotes the wrong kind of idols that don’t focus on what’s important and this at the mass scale has a big impact on society. Also, the lifestyle that goes with keeping up with popular culture drives people to learn certain skills and ignore more important ones. Everyone knows how to edit their pictures these days because of social media but they might not have social skills. So in a way it is distracting us from real life matters.

From Ms Sara Moeel

E-commerce customer developer based in Sharjah

— Compiled by Falah Gulzar/Trainee Social Media Journalist

Gulf News asked: Is popular culture dumbing us down?

Yes: 69%

No: 31%

Have Your Say:

Content created by popular culture is more complex than ever, so is that making us smarter?

Does popular culture give too much attention and exposure to the wrong people rather than people who would pose as progressive individuals of civil society? Are popular culture productions aiming to please all audiences and failing to stir debates and stimulating the minds of people?

To share your views on this topic or join future debates, write to us at readers@gulfnews.com