But it does teach us about priorities.
Wednesday was The Big Day — the unveiling of the latest iPhone update; call it Christmas morning for technology geeks. The iPhone 5, available Sept. 21, is a bit larger, thinner and lighter than the current model. Its camera is better, its screen is sharper, its processor is faster and its software is updated. If you’re into gadgets, this is as good as it gets.
To say smartphones have revolutionized segments of our lives is an understatement. They’re altering how we surf the Web and they’ve freed mobile workers — salesmen, journalists, law enforcement, for instance — from having to sit at their office computers to receive emails or instant messages. The iPhone, followed by its countless imitators, has led much of those innovations.
So, yeah, Wednesday was The Big Day.
But here’s a sampling of Wednesday’s other big news:
• The death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans in a spasm of violence at the U.S. embassy in Benghazi.
• The political reaction to their deaths, including controversial comments by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
• The deaths of nearly 300 people in a Pakistani clothing-factory fire.
• The release of Census data that show there’s been no drastic improvement, either in the United States or in Alabama, in the appalling number of people who live in poverty.
Here we’ll offer the 24-hour news channels some credit. While the blogosphere was imploding with real-time coverage of Apple’s announcement in California, most of them seemed to spend a majority of their airtime covering Wednesday’s biggest story — the ambassador’s death in Libya and expectations about a possible U.S. response. The iPhone release seemed to get appropriate secondary treatment.
But online was another matter. The best example may have come from Twitter, which lists the topics that are mentioned most by those using the micro-blogging site. For much of Wednesday afternoon, the terms “Apple” and “iPhone5” were the leading trends on Twitter.com. It took several hours for the term “Libya” to leapfrog its way into the top, and most newsworthy, spot.
Of the thousands of iPhone-related tweets Wednesday, this one from a gentleman in Indiana was particularly prescient: “I know this is asking a lot, but I wish people cared as much about the situation in Libya today as they do the iPhone 5.”
This isn’t intended to make fun of technology or the iPhone. They have their place. But even in the best of times — like election years, when things really matter — what buzzes our interest can get out of whack. Wednesday was one of those days.