Images, Screens, and Wishes

Pinterst, tumblr, Instagram: I'm looking at you! Stop tricking the young women I know into thinking that "thinspiration" quotes laid over a skinny girl in Nike shorts will help them get fit. Stop making them believe that enough reposts of dreamy cabin scenes will magically bring them the same rewards as a life of intentional contemplation and real-life adventure. And please stop whatever it is that you're doing to convince them that those attractive young couples holding hands in the photo have anything to do with solid, dependable wisdom about romance. << 

Real life is not a GIF. 
Real life is not on tumblr. 
Real life does not come in pixels.  

Stop hiding behind screens and wishes. 
Go and live!


What's so sinister about happy words over fresh-faced girls, though? 

The reasons I object to this type of media are that it encourages passivity and that it nurtures a dissatisfaction with real and daily living. 

But you see, we don't have much time to think about the messages that these combinations of images and words are sending us because they are embedded in a system of delivery that discourages contemplation and action. Sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and tumblr are set up to give us a constantly updated and never-ending stream of image-heavy content so that our eyes will be on the screen for as long as possible. This has at least a couple of effects: 
     1) Our eyes, and so our minds, spend little time on any individual image. In the age of too much information, we're becoming more and more efficient at scanning, which helps us sort through all the input faster. How often have you realized your eyes just sort of skim the whole Pinterest page until a particularly interesting image catches your eye? It would be an overwhelming task to read every caption and look carefully at each picture presented, right? Right. So we don't. And how often do you realize you thumbed through a whole bunch of truly beautiful Instagram photos in your feed because, well, time and impatience? If you're like me, often. 
     2) Mostly all this "inspiration" leads us into dissatisfaction, not action. I know for a fact that tumblr is replete with images of mugs of steaming beverages on rustic wooden tables beside a window overlooking a bright, snowy scene. On the tumblr stream, an image like this meets our eye, strikes us with a certain feeling, offers us the option to "like" or "reblog" it, and then is cast upward in our search for another good feeling. Instead of taking actions, we briefly receive the image, are struck with a tiny surge of emotion, decide to share or not share, and move on. I suppose I could make myself a cup of hot chocolate or peppermint tea or whatever, but it just wouldn't be as wonderful because my table is definitely not made of reclaimed barn wood and when I look out my window I don't see a snowscape in rural Montana, I see an apartment building next door. We pursue the feelings, the lusts and yearnings, in place of pursuing the experiences themselves.

Does that runner look exhilarated? Does the quote plastered over it make you feel a teensy bit powerful too as you imagine yourself in the image? Yes, but how often does it make you stop scrolling and walk outside so, you know, you can experience the exhilarating effects of exertion in the great outdoors?

So my complaint isn't with pretty white teenagers or steaming mugs of coffee or couples holding hands on top of wrinkled bedsheets. My complaint is with our collective capitulation to the tyranny of the image. We are voracious for the image, we worship the image, we devour the image, we experience the tiniest samples of emotion through the image and we accept these vicarious experiences in place of the real thing.

Stop hiding behind screens and wishes.
Go and live!

Call a friend and arrange a pajama party; pack your favorite mug and tea.
Dust off your old bike and feel the breeze on your face.
Walk over to that scary pantry and spend 15 minutes cleaning it up.
Crack open your old French textbook and practice your conjugations.

---Because if you want to make cozy and happy memories, or if you want to truly experience joy, or if you want to conquer your fears and find peace, or if you want to stretch yourself and discover new adventures, you must go beyond reblogging. You must do.

Stop hiding behind screens and wishes.
Go and live!

All who make idols are nothing,
and the things they treasure are worthless.
Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
which can profit him nothing?
He fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.
He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
'Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?'
[isaiah 44]

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. [colossians 3:9-10]