In Praise of Mindless Entertainment

#battleroyale #TeamRJ

So, last week I wrote a take inspired by a certain infamous bestseller that has, in many ways, come to define this decade.

At the beginning of that take, I acknowledged that the book is really, really bad.

We all know that the book is really, really bad.

Guys, it's a freakin' pulp dime novel... grown from a Twilight fanfic, of all things. Of course it's bad. What were you expecting?

Still, comments like these poured in:

• "The fact that it got popular proves that we're not only a seriously twisted populace, but we're seriously stupid, too. Sad." @Fathoms77

• "I was lucky enough to come across a tasteful comic written by somebody who actually practices and understands the human psyche." @BaileyisDarcy

• "I'm so sorry that this sort of junk even has a market. How low our society has fallen... what a pity." (Anonymous)

Again, I'm not disputing that this particular book is bad. In fact, this particular book is bad in ways that are actually pernicious -- normalizing stalking if the stalker happens to be rich enough, foisting grave misunderstandings of D/s sex on readers, etc. Yep. On board with all that.

What I AM disputing, though, is this wholesale condemnation of anything and everything mindless.

I mean, the above commenters -- along with many, many others like them (they were just the lucky ones whose comments I found first) -- almost seem to think that everything we do, even in our downtime, has to be "stimulating" or "intellectually rewarding" or "culturally enriching" or "educational" or ... some other adjective with at least 4 syllables.

And I'm here to say that it ain't so.

The value of "mindless entertainment" is precisely that it is mindless.

It's the brain's equivalent of taking a rest day from the gym.

Without rest days, you'll eventually get weaker and weaker, until you injure yourself.

Similarly, "mental rest" -- which mindless, lowbrow entertainment can induce, in a way that "high culture" and "intellectual stimulation" absolutely can't -- has a way of kick-starting all sorts of weird, wonderful, and restorative processes in our brains.

In fact, neurologists have discovered, our brains have an entire system of neurons, dubbed the "default mode network" (DMN), that is ONLY activated when we daydream, "space out", or otherwise just stop thinking so hard.

The DMN is what integrates new learning with older learning. It's what subconsciously compares our current situation with our short- and long-term goals, pushing our motivation more in line with reality. It's what creates "fluency" and "flow" and "smoothness" and larger intuitive concepts, out of a bunch of separately acquired individual pieces of learning -- it's what allows us to understand that five hundred different examples of being an asshole are all, indeed, being an asshole. It's what lets us recognize what haters are, and what lets us brush 'em off.

The DMN even teaches us to make major life decisions better than we could by reasoning them out explicitly.

Oh, and, for all of you Protestant-work-ethic types who think élite talent and expertise come from working your ass off nonstop... nope. Truly élite performers and top experts typically practice only up to 4 hours a day -- of which only 1 hour is normally at peak concentration. The rest of the work is done by the "mindless" DNM, while those amazing prodigies are fucking around, reading cheap dime novels, gossiping about stupid drama, or even listening to Carly Rae Jepsen (whose stuff some critics have tried to make highbrow -- really guys, don't, thanks, it's okay).

It happens.

And last but not least, the DNM seems to be the birthplace of literally ALL creativity. (How many creative people do YOU know who do "stimulating" things all day long?)

And... NONE of that can happen if we don't stop thinking first.

Yep.

And for a LOT of us -- those of us with racing minds, and multi-channel thoughts, and ever-present consciences and concerns and busy lives and lots and lots of friends with all the same -- the only way to stop thinking is ... well, to tune into something like Kim talking about designer baby clothes.

So... yep.

The next time you're reading or watching or listening to utter and complete junk, that you KNOW is utter and complete junk, and someone tells you just how much it's utter and complete junk?

Just smile at them.

It's good for you.


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What Guys Said 12

  • 3mo

    I would agree 100 percent if I thought for one second that we as a populace are in ANY danger of "thinking too much." ;)

    When 99% of all entertainment appears to fall into the brainless category, and when the vast majority of popular entertainment also seems to be in the same category, I really don't think there's any shortage of brainless crap. There's also no shortage of people who indulge in it on a daily basis.

    We've been going in the "eh, it's stupid but it's okay" direction for way, way too long. Music, TV, books, movies... such a shocking percentage is just embarrassingly stupid. We're certainly in no danger of not giving our brains a break. What we are in imminent danger of, however, is quite the opposite... I mean, isn't this obvious? :D

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    • 3mo

      "I am a great friend to public amusements; for they keep people from vice."
      -- Samuel Johnson, 1772

      Think about what *else* people would be getting up to, instead. Especially restless young people.

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    • 3mo

      I'm an author and a playwright and all of that is wrong. This-

      "Good writing is snappy, unadorned, and, above all else, as SIMPLE and DIRECT as possible."

      Is what we're taught to say. Know what that is? It's to make us feel better. It's a delusion to make us think we haven't fallen as far as we have. "It's not dumber; we just didn't need all those other... um... big words and stuff!" It's embarrassing. It really is. Yes, writing styles have changed dramatically and there's nothing wrong with writing simply and directly.

      But it's not about flowery terms or lots of adjectives and any student of the classics well understands this. It's about producing characters and themes that defy time and are so beautifully crafted those touched by them will never forget them. Proust may have spent 7 pages describing a church but the work itself is so mind-blowingly ingenious in terms of philosophy, reflection, religion, the self, etc, that it represents a ridiculously ingenious mind.

    • 3mo

      We can't handle the depth and wordplay beauty of the masters today. We can't write it; hell, we can't even read it. We're rapidly losing the ability to even appreciate it. The Tolstoys, Michelangelos, Mozarts and Aristotles are gone and if you think they were all just useless relics, or that we actually have anyone in those fields in even the same universe as the master artisans of yesteryear, well... there's nothing to say to combat that level of delusion.

  • 3mo

    This post makes me miss Jersey Shore.

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  • 3mo

    What are you even talking about?

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  • 3mo

    The problem is not the mindless entertainment in itself, the problem is how it is used to stupify the population.

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    • 3mo

      You *do* know that "stupefy" has nothing to do with stupid, right?

      To "stupefy" -- in the *actual* sense of that word -- is precisely the point of ALL entertainment, from lowbrow to highbrow to everything in between.

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    • 3mo

      I'm with you on that. ("In addition to", rather than "instead of".)

    • 3mo

      Whatever. I won't argue with you. I already know what you think of the matter.

  • 3mo

    Don't Care, I might buy it to burn in my fire pit

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  • 3mo

    Totally agree - Sometimes you just need to be silly but do you know what is really great fun, to have a mindless guilty pleasure and the let serious high brow side of you goes all Freudian on it , I sometimes find myself going down the psycho analytical route to add a bit of interest to my TV - A lot of reality TV does not appeal to me but I love the psychological side of it before the producers get their hands on it - In most things in life, I say to each their own, I am getting my kick from it, if another person is getting a kick another way, so be it - I don't think either of us want to change the world today - We just want a post workout smoothie for the brain.

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  • 3mo

    lmfaooo @redeyemidtricks, i love you ma'am, ur hilarious and put up ur point so well :-D

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  • 3mo

    Nice take.

    That black girl is so cute aswell.

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  • 3mo

    If there really was condemnation of everything mindless, then said events/shows/books/music... wouldn't be out there, now would they, which raises a question:

    What precisely constitutes as 'mindlessness'? Furthermore, can we safely say, on a whole, it is to be considered 'mindless''?

    Paraphrasing: -- Indulging in 'mindless entertainment' is the brain's equivalent of taking a rest day from the gym.--
    No, what ever the form of said entertainment: reading, listening, watching - is inducing lots of brain activity. It does have a purpose, still.

    It is correct that daydreaming helps the brain relax and cause moments of "eureka!" and I've experienced it many times during uni. Though, what all of this has to do with 'mindless entertainment' is unclear. at this point.

    --And... NONE of that can happen if we don't stop thinking first.--
    No, it is impossible to not think. The DMN kicks in when we have no particular task at hand, when we pay no attention to the outside world: during meditation, daydreaming. We don't stop thinking.

    Now, for the purpose:
    I believe it's more accurate to say watching Kim talking about nonsense is enough distraction to let your mind wander, during which, you're no longer paying attention to Kim.

    --Oh, and, for all of you Protestant-work-ethic types who think élite talent and expertise come from working your ass off nonstop... nope.--
    Nobody is working non-stop, if they did, they would have a heart attack within 72 hours, most likely.
    Counter-examples to your assumed claim are plentiful. Talent alone without the proper attitude is worth exactly fuck all.

    Expertise, on the other hand, is a product of devotion and hard work.

    All of the truly talented succesful performers, at least one point in life, have worked their asses off, I'll guarantee you that.

    I have to admit, reading your take over and over... and over again, I truly have no idea where we have arrived at :D

    I will agree on the point you, in most likelihood, were trying to make - that it is necessary to 'let the mind wander' and this 'mindless entertainment' is one possible way to let it happen.

    I don't agree on dismissing the importance of working hard [provided, there is a point to it].

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    • 3mo

      All of the élite performers I know -- in lots of different fields, from music to science to writing to sports -- had to "put in their time" WHEN THEY WERE BEGINNERS... but basically only then.

      Once they had achieved a certain level of expertise or mastery, continuing to slave away for the same number of hours ALWAYS became counterproductive... for literally every single last one of them.
      All of the huge time investment came in the beginner stages.

      Probably the *only* exception to this would be the pure endurance sports, where performing at an élite level necessitates continuous training at grueling lactate-threshold levels for obscene amounts of time.
      For everything else... once you've gotten to world-class level, you can take it easy. You NEED to take it easy.

  • 3mo

    Exactly. And it creates this sort of superiority complex because I think x is stupid, people who watch x or listen to x song or whatever must not be that smart and have bad taste in whatever

    But it's not the superiority complex that gets me. It's the people who think this and claim to listen or watch "sophisticated" things and are still magically stuck on stupid. The lack of critical thinking is laughable. Especially on this site. I can't count how many times I'm not even giving opinions so much as just explaining shit. I literally find myself having to explain why 1+1=2. At least that's how I see it. Yet they (and people in general) claim to be learned (learn-ed?). It seems people just read or listen to shit just to sound sophisticated. They fail in actually learning and knowing what they're reading or listening to. They just think that the subject is more important than the content. Or rather, because I looked up rubiks cube directions, I'm an expert on the rubiks cube, despite not understanding concepts and orientations

    PSA: If y'all are gonna do that, you might as well be watching the shows y'all claim as garbage cause that shit is moving faster than taco bell through your assshole 😂

    And it's not even just lack of critical thinking concepts. It's people who literally can't even process facts even when you straight up tell them... Go to questionman. The 1st half was me on minimal sleep, but like the last 10 or do posts are pretty telling
    www.girlsaskguys.com/.../a30492-i-shouldn-t-have-to-remind-people-but-nazis-were-evil

    Look y'all, I honestly don't consider myself smart. I think I'm average. Yes I have a 150+ IQ (test taken a few years ago), but I got average grades in school. I was never the smartest. With that said, the lack of critical thinking skills people have is
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSfebOXSBOE&app=desktop

    Also sorry for the incohessiveness in middle. A bunch of editing on my phone which never goes well for me 😑

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    • 3mo

      Np, I understood.

      I am not big on categories and nomenclature, so, honestly, I'd be bored shitless in a discussion like the one you linked (which didn't seem to be debating anything substantive, beyond "Which label belongs on what?").
      After three or four posts of that, I'd just be like "dude, call it right, call it left, call it pink flamingo pants if you want"... and, yeah.

      But... generally, I hear you, although I always blame myself first whenever I'm the communicator and there's a lack of communication.
      I feel like being able to convey the message is just as important as the message itself -- probably more so -- provided the audience at least understands enough fundamentals to be ABLE to comprehend the message.

      So, I can get yr frustration, but, my first reaction isn't so much to be frustrated as to think "hmm, what am *I* doing wrong?" or "why am *I* not communicating this successfully?"

    • 3mo

      Well, 2 things
      1- I wasn't really going to comment. I got invited to answer and I don't usually have any interest. But I was curious as to which people actually defend nazi's in any way. I, then generally come up a generic statement because I'm not that interested, tbh

      2- I don't know how far you went into it, but he said he was a "centrist" because he was socially liberal and fiscally conservative, to which I had to explain why it was bullshit. So that took longer than expected. Suffice it to say he's not even remotely socially liberal... But the thing is he's so confident when he doesn't even know the basics of the subject he's commenting on

      3- connected to 2, if you comment on something like that, or physics, or anything, I assume that you actually know something about it. I think it's safe to say that most of the people on here graduated (or in) high school. Most of the shit I comment on should've been taught in class 101

      To be continued

    • 3mo

      Even if not, most of what I say is something you can see in the real world. Like he talked about supply economics. I said look at WalMart. Look at 2008. It doesn't take a genius to see what happens when you let rich dudes govern their own money. To me, it's no different than not knowing that if you hold your breath, you can't breathe when you can simply just hold your breath

      Anyways, the main point is just that if you're commenting, you should know what you're talking about at the very least. Maybe I don't do a good job of conveying my message, but I shouldn't have to build in a crash course. It's basically like playing wide out in football and not knowing how to catch

  • 3mo

    I like you took the book and went into something that could be beneficial like for example there are times I'm really bored or at a lecture and I draw amazing art because my mind is empty

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  • 3mo

    People always try to upvalue themselves on the internet, in reference to those users you mentioned

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    • 3mo

      Lol yeah... again, those are just the first few comments like that that I spotted on the take. There were plenty of others.

What Girls Said 7

  • 3mo

    I read this and realized I didn't even like or comment. I'm an idiot.

    By the by I absolutely loved this mytake in case anybody was wondering. Haha. Beautifully written. #praisetheredeyequeen

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  • 3mo

    Totally agree. Everyone always trashes the popular music like by One Direction or Justin Bieber, but I've always loved their songs! And because people were so focused on them, they became world wide sensations for years. And I think they've always had talent and never sounded bad at all. I actually hate their most recent songs.

    Plus, I think it's way easier to hate on things lots of people see as stupid. Like you have tons of people agreeing with you and you automatically look cool to everyone. It's not any more independent, than liking the songs or the groups IMHO. But people act like they're smarter by saying that stuff.

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  • 3mo

    Ok, I didn't get it. Did you like the book or did you hate it?

    Did you read the book that was suggested in the comments of your original question? I did. It was entertaining alright. And it had quite the right amounts of gossip and mindlessness. And how about Jane Austen?
    Does entertaining have to be cheap and stupid to be fun? Because I keep sensing this thing with society that fun has to come from something stupid.
    Can't fun be something of quality?
    Are you saying all of those classic novels written by geniuses that make you cry hard and laugh harder and get a hold on you that you can't put them down, or their rich descriptions take you to another world, are not entertaining and relaxing?
    Seriously I think children's books of my age were of higher quality than that book. I'd still read the wizard of oz or dr Seuss, huckleberry Finn or little women or little town on the prairie or Charlie and the chocolate factory or Charlotte's web, ... over the new novels.
    What I'm trying to say is that works such as that mentioned book aren't just mindless, they are empty, they're not even fun. I'm a bookworm and would read absolutely anything. But I wasn't able to get past the first few chapters of that book. It was so boring and full of cliches. It was ridiculous. It wasn't written by a real author, it could have been engineered by a completely unimaginative software that went something like this:
    Sex, good, bdsm, perverted, good, will attract curious stupid teens, add to bowl. Poor pretty girl who hates money, who loves to work hard instead of sit on her ass and spend money, what a good girl she's a virgin too, check. Hot rich guy who falls hopelessly in love with her and thinks she's his savior because she's a virgin, check. Just add some expensive gadgets and gizmos such as jet, helicopter, yacht, fancy cars, jetski, laptops and BlackBerry (I'm surprised it wasn't iPhone. Maybe Apple didn't want to buy/invest in their superficial advertisement novel.), champagne, wines, perfumes and some brand name clothing. Of course servants too. And of course he has to marry her. In the end she makes more money than him and even saves his ass. Mix ingredients well. Bake for a few hours.
    I bet it was corporate sponsored and fueled by schools and some sort of religion. Final message: study hard, work hard, be a virgin, fall in love, be independent, and a very rich hot guy will ditch all of his hot blond girls and marry you, AND just die to be faithful to you. Yeah, right.

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  • 3mo

    The sense of superiority some people have over hating bubblegum pop or romcoms or easy to swallow books is annoying. Like shut up and stop being an Intellectual™ for a little bit. I like this take, a simple message people need to be reminded of.

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  • 3mo

    @redeyemindtricks

    You've got a point here! Good take...

    You think GAG is one of those mindless things we zone out for in the best interest of our own good? 😉

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    • 3mo

      Like I said to @empatheticlady -- I think it is for most of us. Probably just about all of us who've been here more than a couple months ahah.

      I think you know this, but I'm ALWAYS multitasking when I'm on here -- and it accomplishes pretty much exactly what I want it to accomplish, which is that it pushes my mind off of existing trains of thought.
      There's even some research on that:
      pss.sagepub.com/.../0956797612446024.abstract

      Thanks for the kind words. <3

      At the same time, though, there are definitely real human connections here (which, honestly, is the real reason I stayed past the first 2 days I posted here -- I originally planned to just waste some time here over Christmas and then be like whatevs). I've had a couple of users tell me some things in PM's that have made me cry... in the very very good way.

    • 3mo

      Yeah, there are some peeps here who are pretty damn decent and I like the entertainment the site gives me too.

  • 3mo

    That's why things like brain breaks exist in schools, and that is why adults should follow suit. Brain breaks allow children's minds to recharge after learning while getting them moving and doing something fun. It could be doing something as simple as coloring or jogging in place for a minute. It gives their eyes a break from staring at a whole bunch of slides or reading through pages upon pages of notes.

    As you said, it's been proven that studying all day, every day, is detrimental to the learning process. We all need those moments of mindless entertainment. That's why most of us are on G@G after all, no? ;P

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  • 3mo

    This kind of reminds me of myTake: www.girlsaskguys.com/.../a27198-arguments-against-romance-novels-why-they-are-stupid
    People got to be all uppity like "I will never read THOSE books"
    Don't knock til you try it suckers.
    Then there was that guy who comment on my sponge bath question,
    "You really need to get a life and make something of yourself. Worrying about stupid stuff like this is just such a waste." like who says I'm worrying about it and I do have a life thank you very much. lol

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