There’s a new disease out there. You may not have really bothered to hone in on it, but you have an awareness that it exists. You’ve seen the symptoms. Some people have already unknowingly been affected and have toppled over the edge into a new kind of insanity. You can’t blame them. There’s so many transmission points in our culture it’s difficult for kids today not to be diseased by a very young age.
By “diseased” I mean the very root of the word: dis-eased. Our natural way of being has been impacted somehow. Life has a natural ease to it. How to win is clear: move your genes forward by ensuring you can feed and provide shelter for yourself and then self-actualize. Enjoy yourself. Maslow yourself. Become. But those fundamental priorities are disappearing fast.
Back in the day of newspapers you printed as many pages as there was news. But the formula got turned around backwards when the creation of cable TV created a much busier marketplace and as people looked to fill it, the 24 hour news cycle was born. That lead to journalism being reduced to speculation the majority of the time and increasingly celebrity culture began to really dominate in a way it never had before.
So where you used to be known for singing or dancing or science or something you created, increasingly you can be a celebrity just for its own sake. In many cases you don’t need any skill whatsoever and–to the contrary–you can even be self-destructive and poorly mannered in terms of how you treat others. It no longer matters what the person stands for as a verb, all that matters is if you’re even superficially present in the media.
The other way to fall into a status addiction is through money. This is where you continue to earn money far past the point of it making any logical sense whatsoever. I was very close with an extremely extremely wealthy man and that was mostly what he talked about once he knew he was sick. He could not figure out why he had sacrificed his life for more money than he could ever use in several lifetimes. He wanted to know his children better. He wanted to be their hero and there was no time left. That’s a crazy trade.
These addictions lead to the same crazy kinds of behaviour as any other addiction. It will lead to things like billionaires suggesting they cannot afford to pay minimum wage, to billionaires like Ken Lay losing everything and dying in shame by lying and stealing to hide the fact that he had made some big mistakes in business. In the end trying that strategy lead to him being even more embarrassed and exposed than if he would have just met it head on with character, rather than reputation.
You don’t need to be a part of this mass addiction. Stop and ask yourself if your social media presence is relaxed and really you, or if you curate it for effect. Do you remove unflattering photos that tell the truth about you? Do you tailor your contributions for how they will impact others view of you, or your view of your own life? Do you feel that you are allowed to be your true self and still be successful?
Do not get caught up in what others think of you. It’s an endless messy loop of differing opinions and it totally misses the fact that you are the only person who can be perfectly you, so we can’t have you wasting time being things for other people. Yes, we all have to meld and cooperate to succeed and form a beneficial society, but you don’t have to surrender your true self to do that. You just have to respect all the other true selves.
We create celebrity culture with what we do. We show children through our actions who will get the attention. Einstein and a lot of other scientists used to be in the mainstream news and it made kids want to be smart. When the space race happened kids wanted to understand technology and how it worked. Now it’s primarily appearance for the mainstream.
Let’s not teach kids their value is in how they look. Let’s show them they are so much more than that. But we can’t if all of our attention is on ultimately meaningless and mindless activities. Life is waiting for us to live it, we don’t have to watch others live theirs. So let’s all set a great example for kids and let’s make sure our attention is on enriching and rewarding things. It’s like having a healthy diet for your mind. From there your love and basic good judgment will take care of the rest.
Have an awesome day today. And all the best to you and all those you love.
Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.