On Friday, an estimated two billion people around the world will be glued to their televisions at all hours of the day and night to watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
They’ll also be able to view the pomp and ceremony on an official royal YouTube channel, or a royal wedding app on their iPhone, or follow it on a live blog with integrated Twitter feed.
There’s no escaping the hype.
According to the technology firm Greenlight, the royal wedding is being mentioned 9,000 times a day online, or about once every 10 seconds. There are six times more people excited about the wedding than those that couldn’t care less.
No detail is too minute or mundane for scrutiny, from speculation on Middleton’s dress and who’s designing it, to the guest list, the gifts, the appetizers, the menu.
The cynics, meanwhile, roll their eyes. They dismiss the royal family as irrelevant; they don’t make decisions, they don’t create policy.
They scorn their lavish lifestyles of privilege as a needless burden on taxpayers struggling to pay the rent and buy groceries in recessionary times. They shake their heads at the expense and attention paid to a royal wedding as an affront when people are dying in wars, struggling to rebuild their lives after disasters, dealing with the daily challenges of disease, starvation and poverty.
But it’s those very realities that pique our interest and curiosity about the royals, their wealth, their lifestyles, their foibles.
It’s human nature to seek escape from all the challenges of just getting through the day, whether it’s turning up the volume on a favourite song as we’re stuck in traffic, to popping into the coffee shop for a calorie-laden snack, to scanning the headlines on the gossip magazines as we stand in line at the grocery store checkout.
For most, the royal wedding is no more than that, a diversion. So sit back and enjoy. The problems of the world return on Saturday.