Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The other half lives

Do you ever think that maybe we, as in the collective seven billion people on Earth, spend just a bit too much time wondering about each other?

It's something I think about a lot on summer days when many of my friends are back at school, my dad is at work and I am hanging out in my room on my own watching television or going on the internet or doing something equally inactive.

We're obsessed with how the other half lives. It's why there are things like reality television and websites like TMZ. It's even why we use Facebook or Twitter or blogs. We follow those who we can't be ourselves, perhaps getting a little taste of their lives to make ours more interesting.

I can't speak for all of humanity, I guess. I'm sure not everyone can stand a 12 hour day of napping in her room. In fact, I can barely stand it. This kind of experience is what makes me concern myself with the goings-on of other people's lives.

Is it a product of our generation, though? Do we have too much technology, forcing us into our chairs as we watch our lives pass before our eyes? Or rather, other people's lives pass before our eyes?

For some perspective, I look to my childhood self. When I was a little one without any awareness of computers, who only watched Power Rangers and Barney on television, I was still the type of person to become interested in learning about what others were doing at any particular time and place.

By the time I was nine I was already pondering the production of television. I'd assumed that all performances were recorded live and transmitted to the box in my living room. It was impressive to me, to think that I could watch someone doing something far far away without even getting up from my couch.

I would later learn that Lizzie McGuire was not, in fact, transmitted live for my viewing pleasure. But that didn't mean I gave up on the idea altogether. It was once I came to this realization that my interest was piqued by the subject of celebrity. What was Hilary Duff doing while her own show aired on Disney Channel? Was she watching it like I was?

These kind of thoughts still litter my days. I guess it's because on an afternoon in early September I can get incredibly bored. I'll refresh my Facebook news feed only to watch photos and statuses pop up from every corner of the globe, little reminders that maybe I'm not doing enough for myself. Maybe my life could be more interesting if I tried to make it that way.

Then I ponder about ways to make it more interesting. I could do little things like going to the grocery store or driving to the park and reading a book there. But then I get too discouraged by the singularity of these activities. If I have to do something alone, then I guess I no longer want to do it.

I'm the type of person who loves to go out and experience things. One of my greatest joys in life is traveling and gaining new knowledge about the world around me. But my place as a mama's and a daddy's girl has made me afraid to take on these things alone.

When I go to the grocery store, I don't like to be wandering the aisles by myself. When I go to the park I feel weird about being there alone. Even if no one else notices that I'm lonely, it's all I think about. So I end up just staying home, where the loneliness is curbed by a little box or a keyboard that proves there still is life out there. Life that is actually living, unlike me.

My curiosity about the life going on around me went so far as to make me think incredibly morbid thoughts when I was younger. If I look out my bedroom window and don't see anyone outside, could that possibly mean I'm the last remaining person on Earth? I'd turn on the television not just to distract me from being alone, but to stand as proof that I literally wasn't alone.

I think this obsession comes from something more intrinsic than just my occasional boredom and shut-in tendencies. We're practically trained by our culture to want to know what's going on elsewhere. Just the fact that we're alive and breathing isn't enough to keep us interested. We want to know that someone else is as well.

This is the reason that gossip exists, and why we write letters to one another. It's part of why television exists, and part of the rationality of the internet. We're keeping in contact, but we're also being reminded that the world is bigger than our bedrooms.

It's good for someone like me, who likes to know that there is more out there than what is in my immediate vicinity. Being raised an only child to my mother and the younger half-sister to a girl who was 12 years my senior and not always hanging around the house when I was, the companionship had to exist somewhere.

But it scares me just the same, to think that we fear technology taking over our lives and separating us from our fellow human. In a way, that's already happened. At the very least, it's our job to get out into the real world and show that we can live just as well as the other half does. That's my goal anyway.

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