Last week, a magician won Britain's Got Talent. And we talked about it a lot, especially on social platforms. Plenty of online chatter about the man who based his winning performance on the story of a veteran of World War II who, as "the conjuror of the River Kwai" used magic to help him deal with the horrors of war.
Last week also saw the deaths of over a thousand migrants − drowned as they tried to escape from a different war and another deprivation, but simply found a new horror instead. And if the online noise is anything to go by, their plight may not, in years to come, inspire a card trick on a TV talent show. The online statistics tell us that we were 11 times more likely to express our opinions on BGT than on the horrors at sea. In fact, it seems we were less concerned about the migrant crisis than we were about José Mourinho, Harambe the gorilla or Johnny Depp's marital woes. The more trivial, the better we like it. Well done, us.
The callousness of our online interests emerges out of data from Impact Social who measure and analyse social data. They collated more than 430,000 social media posts over the last seven days, including forums, blogs and open news sites. Specifically, they were looking at the relative interest shown in a range of news stories − the migrants, BGT, Harambe, Mourinho's appointment at Manchester United and Depp's kerfuffles.
The thing is, we knew where the fascinations would lie. Ask people what's more important − the lives lost at sea or Mourinho and we'd publicly claim we were more concerned about the former. But we'd talk about the latter. We aspire, in public conversation, to higher thoughts, but our online activities reveal our true selves. But don't worry, it's anonymised data, you can still claim that this is what other people do...
Out of that 430,000 social media mentions, 43% were about Britain's Got Talent (over 187,000, partly driven by some paid-for heavy lifting on the hashtags). Elsewhere, a story about an unemployed football manager landing a job as a football manager at a club where it has been assumed for six months he would become their manager meant that 22% of posts were reacting to the worst-kept secret in British football.
And it's up to you to draw your own conclusions about the fact that Harambe the gorilla, shot as an apparent threat to a child's life, was marginally more important (16% of mentions) than Depp's alleged threat to the welfare of Amber Heard (15%).
Talent show, football manager, zoo animal, actor. All vastly more deserving of our attention than migrant deaths. Because only 4% of mentions, your social media posts, were about them. Just over 16,000. It doesn't paint a pretty picture of a compassionate world. If only those families had known better how to draw attention to themselves. They don't need better boats, they just need better hashtags.