I blame the American dream. I blame capitalism and the idea of materialism that it has naturalized in our lives, growing worse and worse with each generation. Not even, every year a new gadget comes out, a new tv show about the Kardashians, or a magazine that extorts and builds upon these materialistic needs perpetuated by insecurities of class, appearance and media “status”. As much as many would like to go to a store and pick a perfectly gift wrapped life, it doesn’t work that way. We all know that, I thought, but I had to leave California to realize that maybe people don’t. Wandering through different countries, cultures, and conversations has made me realize how toxic, subconsciously and not, my homestead was.
We should all be ashamed. It’s disgusting how we’ve let something like media become our life. Technology is a tool, helpful when it wants to work, but I believe it’s damaged our sense of community, of social skills and disconnected us as much as we’ve tried to connect with others. We’ve exchanged the real for the virtual. George Carlin, a favorite comedian of mine, said it best in his essay “The Paradox of Our Time” where he wrote: “We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication….We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor….a time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.”
The essay is a quick read and worth it. George Carlin’s words should sink in, but to most they won’t or they’ll never hear/read them. What matters is lost or simply replaced with a cheap imitation.
As much as I seem to be putting down the use of media, it has also served as a ironic conduit for change. During this covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, people have been forced onto media outlets being physically unable to see one another. It helped several people connect and remember the fragility of life and one’s self. However, it became clear that technology as much as we believed or hoped it would be, failed in replicating the presence of the people we missed. People who weren’t friends even began to miss each other. The clerk at the local dairy was finally someone to be recognized and appreciated. The forced distancing made us crave contact even with strangers, despite or weariness of the virus. We are social creatures, yes, but there’s nothing like a simple sit-down-and-chat. I hope that we’ve seen through the media guise and learned or at least remembered to appreciate the power of physical contact and verbal communication.
Don’t forget to be Human.