We live in times where computers and television have become such an important part of our everyday lives, that most of us probably cannot imagine going without them for over a month. We seem to think that without them, we don’t have much interesting things to do with our free time (which is usually false, but that’s beside the point).
An unfortunate result of this is that we are constantly being subjected to various types of role-models. TV actors (and their characters), famous musicians, fashion models, billboards in the streets, even characters in TV series. We are constantly exposed to them, and the underlying message is: “those people are happy”. There are many people who will spend a large portion of their day simply reading about those people, fantasizing about THEIR lives, most likely to get a glimpse of what it would be like to be in their skin. We observe, analyze and compare ourselves to them, trying to see how we measure up to those considered happy (and I stress the word ‘considered’ here J).
Each of us, at some point in their lives, is most definitely influenced by one, or more, of these characters. We then, subconsciously, make choices in our lives that are likely to lead us to become as close to our role-model as possible. The problem with this is that, as with everything else, what makes a person happy is very much subjective, and varies from person to person. Once we let others decide for us what should make us happy, and actually start believing it, I consider it a problem. This is something I believe everyone should try to become aware of. Ask yourself: “is my image of happiness really mine, or did I get it from somewhere else? Have the things I done lately actually made me happier like I thought they would, or did they simply just “happen” and I’m more happy simply with the fact that I achieved it, but in and by itself it didn’t make me happier?”
That’s a lot of questions, I know, but take a minute with them.
Of course, everyone is influenced to some degree by our surroundings. Friends, parents, people we see everyday, co-workers, teachers. It also makes sense that we are also influenced by the people and characters we see on TV / commercials / on our computers. What you need to remember, however, is that those characters and persons are NOT REAL. But through the mere exposure and repetition mechanism, we start to believe in them, like them, and ultimately – want to become similar to them. Consider these two examples:
- You start watching a new TV series, it’s your first episode. You don’t really like the characters that much, but as they are exposed to us much, over time we start liking them either way. We develop compassion and a liking for them, we start perceiving them as humans (when they are anything but that). This is the reason why it is quite easy for us to like murderers, serial killers and general negative characters when watching TV. They’ve been exposed long enough to us.
- You are talking with your friend, asking him if he really did see something happen or not. And he answers: “Yes I did.” You don’t believe him, so you ask: “really? You are not making this up?” “No, I swear, I didn’t!” you are still not convinced and say: “Yeah right…” and he goes again “No really, I DID see it”. If this cycle is repeated a few times, we will actually start believing him. Even though nothing actually changed from the moment that we first didn’t believe him to the point that we started to do so. He simply repeated the same thing over and over a few times, until it simply started getting real. Whether he is telling the truth or not is besides the point here, I just wanted to illustrate this phenomenon of repetition.
Naturally, since we are so over-exposed to TV/computers/commercials/magazines, we are at a point where it has simply become part of our reality. We believe in its existence and therefore participate in it, strive for it, work by its rules – almost like if it was a real part of our lives.
HOW IT CAN BE DANGEROUS
But ask yourself this: how does all of this stuff that you see related to what you actually DO see on every day life? How does it relate to your school, your work, your friends, your family, your girlfriend(s) or boyfriend(s)? This – real life – is where we should be getting our inspiration from. Where was the last time you actually met someone, a real living person from flesh and bone, that you admired and wanted to become like them? Most likely the answer is “I don’t remember”. Or perhaps you will say a name of some famous person that you hear about a lot or read about a lot. But that is not a real person, is it? It is just a projection of that person, designed in such a way to attract attention. Be very, VERY careful how seriously you take all of these characters. Come to think of it, this could actually make for a great drama story. The plot would go like this:
A guy bought an interesting book, and he loved the characters and story so much that he went out for an adventure through unknown lands looking for mysterious writer who he have hard possessed some magical powers. The writer has the ability to make any person a character in a book. He (the writer) would actually add extra chapters to the story of any book, and immerse the person into that book as a character of those few extra chapters. The person, of course, seizes to exist in reality, and can only be read about in these few chapters of a book.
Well, maybe not the story of a best seller, lol. BUT, I’m pretty sure that if I would read a book like that, and if at the end of it our hero really did become just a part of a few chapters in a book, I would feel really sorry for him. And yet, this is what seems to be going on around us all the time – tons of us, trying to become a part of a huge story, forgetting our everyday lives and simply getting absorbed into The Book.
And yes, I do realize that for a huge lot of us, the reality created by the mass medias must seem at this point so real, that changing it or leaving it entirely behind must seem extremely difficult. It is possible, though. Just like it became reality to us (when a few decades back no one probably cared about this stuff, at least in Europe), we can unlearn this behavior by getting more and more exposure to real, everyday life, and less and less exposure to The Book.
THINGS I CAN DO ABOUT IT
Now, don’t take me wrong. I’m not some weird guy who is against all sorts of advancements and who would simply prefer to remain in the stone age. By all means, do watch TV and read magazines, BUT:
- Let them inspire you, don’t let them guide you.
- Let them interest you, don’t let them absorb you.
- Love them, but don’t devote yourself to them.
- Hate them, but don’t hate because of them.
- Judge them, but don’t let them judge you.
You get my point, I hope. Treat everything you see in the mass-media as a “cool story”, but nothing more. Don’t dwell too much around it and don’t try to identify yourself with it. The more you think about it and try to work it all out, the more it will become a part of who you are and what you want to be. Instead, devote your whole attention to your every day life, your friends, family, hobbies, having sex, whatever it is – but make sure that it is something REAL and something that you can actually at least touch. And if you are thinking that everyday life is boring, think again! You are only thinking that because it is a habit. 15 years ago there were no computers, yet no one complained they were bored? 100 years ago there were no TV’s, and I bet people weren’t being bored out of their skulls? I’m sure the purpose of a man’s existance wasn’t to invent TV and mass media, so I’m pretty sure you will find tons of interesting stuff to do around 😉 the human can adapt incredibly to any circumstances, all it needs is a bit of time. It might seem hard at first, since when we are used to something we tend to believe it is THE only way to live. But break the routine for a few weeks and suddenly new doors will open up to you. And in a lot of cases, the new doors will surprise you and turn out to be hiding much more interesting (to you) things than what you were doing before. Just give it a try.
Stay in reality for as long as possible, don’t wander too often. And when you do wander, make sure it is just for fun, and not as a life-defining activity. Because, otherwise, we are no different from the 5-year-old children being told stories about santa clause and actually believing in them. Those kids are cute of course, but the reason we allow them to believe in these stories is that we know that “oh, in a few years, they will know the truth and stop believing in it”. In the case of adults, we don’t really stop believing the stories in The Book. And that’s dangerous.