Emulating the Airbrushed
Although it’s really tangential to the main subject of the article (which is the effect of high-tech communications on real relationships), this quotation hits some notes that have been a minor theme, of late:
“TWO HUNDRED FIFTY years ago,” [Saint Joseph’s University social ethics professor James] Caccamo says, “our role models would have been people close to us. We would have imitated the wise in our communities, and probably could have attained what they had. Today, we have so many images of vast wealth, power, and bodily perfection at our fingertips and in the media, and none of them are anything we could ever attain. Our lives simply pale in comparison. How could they not?
“Because we are inundated with the unattainable, lust and envy have become our daily companions. Because we expect rapid change, frustration and impatient anger have become part of our normal social discourse. This has not made our lives better. Relationships still take time, and spiritual development is still a lifelong process.”
Lust and envy certainly come into play, but the more potent emotion, I’d say, is insecurity. Coveting implies the ability to take or claim, but I suspect that it’s more broadly the case that average folks feel deep down that they simply aren’t good enough to live up to the impossible images. Consumerism, however, provides a pressure valve in the form of “unless”: unless I take these pills, buy this exercise machine, wear these clothes, have that car.
Information technology can emerge as one more example, granting new powers to those who master it — cloaking actual qualities prominent among them. Of course, by lowering costs and democratizing tools, IT also opens legitimate paths toward true achievement — whether we’re talking the ease of desktop publishing, the ready availability of multimedia production programs, or the empowerment of online communications. It takes constant vigilance, however, to determine whether we remain on a path toward real-life goals or are drifting into virtual isolation in a cyber-cavernous echo chamber.