You've probably all seen the commercials; I don't even remember which cell phone company airs them. I wouldn't mention the name even if I could remember, because I might have to pay royalties to someone or other-- so I'll describe them as generically as possible. Somebody in the commercial is using their new, totally top-of-the-line SuperAwesomePhone, and when someone else receives a news feed this SuperAwesome user has already seen, he or she sneers, "That's so 30 seconds ago," or some other number that indicates how utterly more Cool it is to be that many seconds ahead of the dweebs who don't have the product.
Whereupon, instead of staring in shock at the utter rudeness of dismissing their news with "that's so 30 seconds ago," the recipient of the rudeness smiles wistfully, obviously secretly planning to go out and get a phone just like that tomorrow, or the next day at the latest.
I hate these commercials. They seem to me to encapsulate much of what's wrong with our culture. I'm old enough to start being curmudgeonly about things like this, so here's a list of my gripes.
First, how exactly is my life impoverished by receiving a bit of information 30 seconds later than I would have received it with a SuperAwesome phone? If I had that extra 30 seconds of knowledge, would I be able to alter my reality so that in some new universe I'll be mind-blowingly happier than I would be without that 30 seconds? Do we really need to know things 30 seconds faster today than we knew them yesterday, or last week? Why?
Today's culture is all about frantic speed, at the expense of patience, tranquility and the care it takes to make things that will last. We rush from one event to the next, from one piece of technology to the next, from one relationship to the next. When do we breathe? Have we forgotten how? And whatever happened to building things that will endure the tests of time?
Second, keeping up with the Joneses used to mean occasionally eyeing the cars in one another's driveways or wishing we could go on a trip to Hawaii like the neighbors did last year. But now it seems that one-up-manship has become a way of life. Commercials capitalize on our desires to be better than everyone around us, until we view every purchase as a win or a loss in a huge competition. "The one who dies with the most stuff, wins," is replaced by, "The one who dies with a life full of the most constantly updated stuff, wins." Why do we have to compete at all? Does this really make us better, in any sense, than those who "lose"? And how much new stuff do we really need to be happy? Are we miserable creatures and to be pitied, if we don't have the very latest "app"?
Third, rudeness seems to have become a way of life. No one really notices any more the disrespectful, dismissive things we say to other people, or about people behind their backs. When a friend comes running to us with a piece of news that is important enough to them to want to impart it, how are we justified in shutting them down with a sneering, "Oh, I already know all about it!" Wouldn't kindness alone lead a person to at least pretend they didn't know, so that their friend can have the pleasure of imparting it? But apparently it's now funny to watch someone silence someone else with superior, 30-seconds-earlier knowledge. Maybe we ourselves wouldn't be so rude to a friend's face. But what about what we're thinking inside? It's normal in our culture to write people off as losers if they don't measure up to standards imparted to us by commercials like these. Do we have to own the very latest gadget to be respected? Why?
Finally, updates to technology come so fast that it's impossible to become comfortable using a gadget, an operating system, or even an app. By the time you've learned everything you can do with it, it's already obsolete. Even to write this post today, I had to upload a new Internet browser, because someone at Google decided I needed an upgrade to Blogger whether I wanted one or not-- and the new Blogger won't work with my usual browser. I'm at the mercy of upgrades. I have to use the new stuff even if I was perfectly happy with the old. Whatever happened to "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"? But all these tech companies apparently know better than I do what I actually want or need-- and I get dragged behind, trying to catch up, and wishing I could just go along comfortably the way I did before, until I'm ready to change.
Jesus said, "Be on your guard against every form of greed, for not even when one has an abundance does life consist of possessions." Luke 12:15. I hope I'm not sounding too preachy or negative-- but these are frustrations I've been wanting to express, and it's my blog, so no one can stop me!
In the frenetic pursuit of SuperAwesomeness there is neither peace nor love, nor even joy. And yet the SuperAwesome cell phone company, and thousands of other companies like it, bombard us every hour or so with the message that what we really need is none of these. We need to run out and buy.
I for one am sick of the message.