For the first time (and possibly not the last!) I am abroad for the US Presidential Elections. Watching the insanity unfold from afar has been interesting, because it has been quite unlike previous elections I have experienced. While the fact that it is the most expensive US Presidential Election ever probably suggests that there have been loads of commercials, signs, people going door-to-door, and Facebook Posts, so far the only part of that I have really experienced is the Facebook posts. Unlike in the States, where exposure to the elections is something like an assigned meal at a mess hall, where you can choose not to engage but it’ll be in front of you no matter what you do, here in the States it’s much more like a buffet: I am choosing exactly how much content I want to consume.
Basically, any news that I read (a lot) is entirely because I choose to. Therefore, my entire election exposure has come through NYTimes, NYTimes’ political blog (Five Thirty Eight), Sam Wang of Princeton, The Onion, and any editorials that I come across that I think are interesting. Because my only engagement is what I actively choose to pursue, I’m reading a lot of political forecasts and objective-ish stories about what’s unfolding, rather than listening to talking heads. And if something doesn’t interest me, I can COMPLETELY choose to not read or learn about it.
I realized recently that the same is probably true of pop culture in general. One of my friends in Kenya was talking about watching some shows from the States, and I realized that for whatever reason, it hadn’t really occurred to me that shows are still happening, and that American culture is progressing just as it has before, without me.
In a lot of ways, it’s quite pleasant. I chose to ignore baseball this time around, and when I received a NYTimes update (jeez, I’m sounding like a walking billboard for them) that the Giants had won the World Series, I was surprised to discover that baseball was at that point. In contrast, I check the scores of the NBA almost every day.
So admittedly, I’m losing a lot of “culture” and when I come back to the States, there will be many things that I’ll be oblivious to. On the flip side, the internet means I get to actively choose what culture I participate in. Like a buffet, I can skip over what doesn’t look especially appetizing, and instead gorge on what I do think will be enjoyable.
Because I enjoy election night, I plan on going to bed quite early tonight, and waking up at 4 AM my time/8 PM East Coast time. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to skip over the endless speculation, and jump in right as the results are being served.