The More We Have. The Less We Are.

Are we at risk of becoming objectified?

Has the daily barrage of mass media saturated our lives to the extent that our minds are now set upon a generational march to mush?  Are we so heavily engaged as a participatory audience that we’ve turned away from a more intimate and introspective personal journey?  I wonder what Thoreau would say.

I recently spent several days unplugged from the 24/7/365 media stream. Reluctantly, I was forced to give up my mobile edition of The NY Times stocked with its non-stop chorus of minute-by-minute updates. Like a dangling participle, my Facebook and Twitter pages remained untouched, leaving my persona to wander aimlessly through cyberspace.   Cue the collective gasp!

©Eli Reichman, 2010. All Rights Reserved.

A funny thing happened.  To the best of my knowledge, there wasn’t any wringing of the hands. No worrisome emails, texts, or voice mails were discovered once I reconnected with the “real” world.  Apparently no one noticed or cared I had disappeared, least of all me.

The truth is, I didn’t voluntarily remove myself from society. I was in a part of New Mexico where my AT+T phone service was, well, inept.  Imagine that!  Frankly, it was a relief.  This disconnect allowed me to relax and unfold my mind.

In retrospect, I’ve begun to wonder: does the onslaught of social media mean that we’re losing our ability to sit quietly and think without being interrupted or distracted?  And, if so, what is the driving force behind this obsession on being hard wired 24/7?  Is it something more than wanting or needing to be constantly informed and included in the latest Internet buzz saw?

In his upcoming book, Going Geek:  The Really Smart Kid’s Guide to College Admissions, my friend John Carpenter challenges high school seniors to consider how much “love” they need when applying to colleges. Basically, they must decide how much personal validation they desire by being accepted into multitude of universities.  I’d suggest the same rule could be applied to everyone with a Facebook, Twitter or Myspace account.

I’ve read some tweets where people are detailing almost every second of an ongoing family member’s illness, their latest pedicure treatment, or the step-by-step dissection of a lovely dining experience.  Surely you’ve witnessed a similar scene yourself . . . one person is immersed in conversation, texting or tweeting on their phone, while their partner sits silently disengaged, staring off into outer space.

Perhaps this is everyone’s ongoing shot at their 15 minutes of fame . . . A.K.A., Warhol’s self-aggrandizing, narcissistic journey.  Given that it did make him a multi-millionaire, maybe it’s not such a bad pursuit after all.

Is social media a new type of A.D.D., a freshly rewritten version Huxley’s, Brave New World, or are we simply bored and searching for a new and more palatable alternative to mass consumerism?  Maybe we’ve all grown a little too insecure and our egos are in need of continuous validation.  Though this thought makes me cringe as I recall Sally Field’s Oscar winning speech (You love me, you really love me!)  If it’s the latter of these possibilities, then, for the love of God, I beg of you, just say no!

My set of travels through the wilds of New Mexico reinforced a long held belief: decompression is a cathartic, healing process.  And it’s dawned on me that we should all unplug more often without needing to venture off the beaten path.

Give it a chance.  It’ll cleanse your mind and free your soul.

©Eli Reichman, 2010. All Rights Reserved.

3 thoughts on “The More We Have. The Less We Are.

  1. While at a stop light this morning I noticed the driver next to me was busy typing away on their cell phone. In the front passenger seat was an infant strapped into a car seat — facing forward. When the light turned green the driver continued typing away as they began driving in traffic. All I could think was; is the life of a child worth the message?

  2. Hi Eli. Thanks for sharing. And your photography is spectacular. What a treat! I agree with you completely and like to try and regularly unplug. I’ll take it a step further. When I drive in my car, I don’t have the radio, music of any kind or any other sound on. It is just my “quiet time” and I find it cathartic. I also find it very sad to walk the streets of any town and see so many people with earbuds in their ears, totally disconnected from all that’s going on around them. I love a casual conversation with a stranger and have met some incredible people that way. I can’t imagine taking that out of my life – yet there are so many people who think that it’s preferable to simply disconnect from the world around them by plugging something into their ears.

    I say the best formula IS to be connected. At times. But at others, to be joyously UNconnected – to anything. No media, no Internet, no distractions and, as a result, open yourself, your mind and your life up to a myriad of opportunities and interactions – or complete lack thereof.

    Now THAT is what I call a life well lived.

    Thanks for sharing a beautiful read.


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