“A mirror is like my own personal reality TV show —where I’m both the star and only viewer. I’ve got to get my ratings up.” — Jarod Kintz, author I keep humorous comics and quotes on my refrigerator, since there are no longer child-generated crayon drawings from my boys. In a one-panel scene of people in a coffee shop with windows viewing others on the street — almost all of whom are plugged into personal communication devices, taking “selfies” — two fellows are speaking: “I read that the government wants to install cameras everywhere to record our every move,” one says, to which the other responds, “Scary.”
The scary part is this culture of “watching.” The one item in an article I read that touched me the most was, “Watching takes us into relationships and actions where we are not physically present — and this fundamentally alters what experience means.”
Obviously, we watch others to learn. From infants studying parents to students being shown how to draw an isosceles triangle to lessons on YouTube on how to tie a fishing fly, we gain knowledge. But the thought of experiencing companionship by watching others in “reality” shows and by shaping our culture strictly based on how many “Rich and Famous” or “Jackass” stars we follow, has always bothered me. We have witnessed the results throughout history.
For those of you too young to remember this stick-like model of the 1960s, she’s just the first image to pop into my head of the impossible bodies women are expected to achieve and maintain. Fads have come and gone throughout history, many with permanent physical and mental health consequences. We all want to be different — just like everybody else.
There was a day when going to the movies was the epitome of escapism. You experienced the knight in armor rescuing the fair maiden, you guffawed with the Marx Brothers’ unabashed parody and humor, skipped down that yellow brick road along with those interesting companions. But now it seems that, more than ever, we cannot exist on our own without knowing what so-and-so said to so-and-so in the last five minutes or sharing photos of what we just ate for lunch.
We “experience” friendships via virtual chat rooms, 6-second film clips and tweets. I agree with the Dalai Lama that it is a good goal to know as many people as possible, to see people smile genuinely, to spread peace through personal contact.
But with digital technology, I find Albert Schweitzer’s comment truer than ever: “We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.”
Unless you sleep in the dirt on the ground, unless you have been at the front lines of the battle, have experienced endless hunger, been blessed with a new child, had your car stolen or won the lottery, you cannot remotely experience the feelings these bring without at least looking into someone’s eyes, feeling the electricity of the thrill emanate from them or touched the trembling or tiniest of hands. We have come to rely too much on our eyes, which, via Photoshop, deceive us more than ever.
Make today more worthwhile by not texting, not posting or tweeting or watching television. Experience the beauty of the birds in the yard, the fun of a board game with your family or engage in a real live conversation down at the local coffee shop or park and learn something new. Something real!