Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sick Obsessions

In the old days before the Great and Terrible World Domination by the Internet, you didn’t have much entertainment besides books and television shows. Kind of hard for us youngsters to believe, being attached at the hip to our iPhones and all. 

If you liked a certain person on the silver screen or some character in a book, there really wasn’t much you could do about it except read the book several hundred times and religiously watch every episode of the show. There weren’t any fan forums or chat rooms or role-playing games. There weren’t gag reels and spoofs and bloopers plastered all over youTube. You couldn’t drool at pictures of your celebrity crush on instagram or tumblr. You also couldn’t binge-watch sixteen episodes of your favorite show all in one night—once a week was all you got, and that was only if you didn’t have something going on during that special hour, because until the late 70s there was no way to record anything. You either saw it yourself or had your friends tell you about it.

I don’t know about you, but all of that sounds incredibly nice.

Let me backtrack. When I turned 12 I discovered a TV show with an especially attractive male lead that was (supposedly) the perfect medicine for my hormone-and-angst-ridden life. I bought all five seasons of the show on Amazon (an expensive feat, considering that the only money I had was from selling eggs) and watched one—sometimes two—eps every day. It was my drug. If Mom wanted to punish me severely (and I really was kind of a brat back then), all she had to do was take away my TV privileges and I was literally paralyzed. 

One time I had done something particularly naughty and Mom banned me from any and all TV for two whole weeks. It almost killed me. I remember writing in my puny diary at the time “I’m going to die! I don’t know what to do with myself!” I know I was only 12, but things really had gotten out of hand. I was living and breathing this show. I wrote stories about it, drew countless sketches of the especially attractive object of my crush, and even tried to imitate his voice and mannerisms. I think I must have spent literally weeks of my life looking up pictures of this actor on Google image, watching youTube clips, and reading all about his life (which wasn’t really all that worthy of imitation). I can imagine God looking over the time log of my life when I die and shaking His head: “Hmmm, let’s see…you spent 400 hours of your life in prayer and 150,000 hours of your life on instagram…” Shudder.

Thankfully, I have overcome that addiction and can enjoy the show as well as the actor without swooning and fainting and writing gobs of goofy poetry. And as isolated and pathetic as I felt during my so-called recovery process, I think I can now safely say that I wasn’t alone. I’m sure—no, I’m positive—that all of you can think of something or someone, be it Edward Cullen, World of Warcraft, or dippin’ dots ice cream that you had an unhealthy passion for. And our current world of instant information only drags us deeper into the muck of dependency. 

My sister and I really enjoy the original series of Star Trek with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. When it was being aired in the late sixties, there wasn’t much memorabilia around that you could hoard; the weekly episode was all you got. Now, over 50 years later, the show has blossomed into websites, forums, youTube channels, and even its own pages on tumblr and Pinterest. You can buy posters on eBay and design your own T-shirts. You can even make your own GIFs and stick them all over your facebook page (I’ll admit—I’ve done it). There is no end to the entertainment—you can take it with you wherever you go. And quite frankly, it’s sickening. 

"Open the windows, Danno--it's rank in here."

 There’s never any breaks from glowing screens, never any time to be alone and not have someone texting you or emailing you unless you forcefully put down your phone and shut your laptop and get the hell out of Dodge. For most of us, especially college students, this is impossible. The internet is how we communicate, even more so than talking or meeting in person. We’ve literally become automatons consumed by the pursuit of digital pleasure. 

Technology was supposed to make our lives more simple, but it has done exactly the opposite. It has enslaved us. I will be the first to admit this—I have a MacBook Air, two iPads, and a recently purchased Moto G smartphone. Even now I spend hours “surfing the web” (sounds so 1990s) for all kinds of crap that I forget about 10 seconds later. I’m often ashamed to look at my browsing history. I have a sticky note taped to my screen that reads “Am I doing what pleases God right now?” while a few seconds ago I made another GIF of Hawaii Five-O while taking a break from writing this very piece.

What a hypocrite.

How long has it been since you enjoyed a good book? Taken a walk outside after dinner? Laid on your back watching the clouds or the stars? Written a letter? Will these activities become ancient history that our children will marvel at? Oy vey, who knows what the next generation will have to endure—they’ll probably have a wi-fi hotspot implanted in their brains at birth. 

Our obsession with the digital realm is dangerous, not only because it wastes our precious God-given time and talents, but because it creates an alternate reality. We start turning to Netflix for comfort instead of God. We spend our days dreaming about the latest episode of this show or that which we stayed up past midnight to watch (and might have even missed church for). We lose sight of reality, and that is exactly what Satan wants. I’m sure no one was as happy with the invention of the Internet as he. As a wise little nun once told me, “You can buy and sell everything on the Internet, including your soul.” Badda-bing.

Generation Y and Z, take the challenge and unplug for a while. If you can’t say no, you aren’t free. And not being able to say NO to an inanimate object should greatly disturb you. Rediscover the joy of reading—go to a library and lose yourself in the stacks. Play an instrument, or learn one. Enjoy life while you’ve got it.

Rather ironically, my email quote used to be this:

“Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life... If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.” –St. Teresa of the Child Jesus

Badda-bing, again.

Ciao, Baby.

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