Too Much Entertainment

Once upon a time, I was in ninth grade and there were two things I liked more than almost anything (besides reading): music and video games (namely Pokémon and Unreal Tournament). So when I came home from a rough day of being a freshman in high school, I would blow off steam by sitting in front of the family computer (that is, if the seat wasn’t already occupied by my brother) and destroying pixelated soldiers in Unreal Tournament.

One day I had the brilliant idea to enhance my killing sprees by listening to music while playing the game. So I was merrily running along in a fictional militaristic world, flak cannon in virtual hand, blasting enemies into freshets of imaginary blood while listening to Bon Jovi. Pure nerdy bliss. My blood pressure was low, my ears were filled with the sounds of the game and the music, and then my mom looked over at me and said, “Maggie, that’s too much.” (Or something like that. At the time, I was angry at having my joy interrupted and didn’t bother to remember her exact words.)

That was back in 2002, before everyone on God’s green earth had a cell phone, before social media really took off, before mp3 players and iPads and Kindles, and before video games looked so realistic that you couldn’t tell the difference between animation and a live-action movie. I feel sorry for teenagers today, who have three or four times as many modes of entertainment and thus three or four times as many distractions. It’s not just too much. It’s way too much.

I help with my church’s youth group, and this past Sunday’s session was about how we are consumed by technology, social media, materialism, and other modern-day distractions. The teenagers were given a slip of paper on which they were asked to estimate the number of hours per day they spent on social media, browsing the Internet, texting, and so forth. The findings weren’t shocking to me or any of the adults present, especially because a few of the teenagers were tied to their phones during the night. Even so, we hoped the exercise made them realize that there was a lot of unnecessary “noise” in their lives and that the noise can prevent them from being able to sit in silence, to meditate, and to pray.

We taught the teenagers that there is a simple solution to escaping from all the “noise,” and that is spending time before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, AKA Eucharistic Adoration. Just a few minutes of silence and/or prayer per day can put things back in perspective and stop the noise long enough to help one remember that the world and all its distractions will pass away, and all the “entertainment” we have can never fill the gap in our souls that yearns for God.

Vine’s Been Cut Down

If you follow this blog, you probably know I’m not a fan of social media (ironic, considering blogging is a form of social media, but anyway…). So I was happy to hear about the demise of Vine,* which is basically YouTube with a much shorter attention span, where users post 6-second videos. Yes, you read that right. Six seconds of video, played on a loop until the viewer gets sick of it and it’s no longer amusing or funny or whatever it was supposed to be.

Apparently, Vine is being shut down (although the existing videos will remain in an archive) because it did not keep up with the innovative pace of Twitter, Snapchat, and other popular social media sites. Why did Vine not last? Perhaps because users wanted something with a little more substance, so they turned to YouTube. Maybe they wanted to upload pictures instead of videos, so they went on Instagram.

Oddly enough, I’ve also been hearing things about Twitter (the parent company of Vine) and Tumblr (owned by Yahoo!, which was recently bought by Verizon) also having problems. So maybe Vine represents the beginning of the end for social media in general, and we can all return to having face-to-face conversations instead of burying our heads in our phones all the time. I do recognize that this is an unlikely outcome because social media sites come and go all the time, but I can dream, right?

*But I was not happy upon realizing that Vine’s shutdown means that people will be out of jobs.

Beware the Ads on Tumblr

Tumblr has been one of my favorite social media sites (well, practically the only one I’m on) since its inception, although lately I’ve been tempted to kick it to the curb because 90% of its content is beginning to be offensive to me and because you can’t do an innocent image search without running into very risqué stuff. Since Tumblr was bought by Yahoo! a few years back, it’s only gotten worse, and so have the ads. Like this one:*

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At first, I thought the object in the little speech-bubble heart was a wedding band, but then I lowered my mind to the gutter, looked more closely, actually read the text of the ad, and realized that the object is in fact a condom. I began to get angry, but I realized I was on Tumblr and this ad is probably the least of all the things on there I could get angry about.

The picture says, to put it simply, If you love me, use a condom or I will prove my love for you by using a condom. I could imagine how using a condom could be seen as a caring gesture because you’re looking out for a lover’s well-being, but it is upsetting that it has to be that way,** that the types of things condoms guard against are so prevalent, and that a condom is not 100% effective in doing its job.

To answer the question in the ad, yes, sex is risky. A condom can guard a certain part of one’s body and may even provide temporary peace of mind, but it cannot guard one’s heart. I know that a discussion about protecting emotions is not what the ad intends to start, but the heart above the two guys’ heads reminds the person viewing the ad that heavy emotions are involved. What I’m getting at is that the heart should be removed from the ad. Perhaps the two guys should each be holding onto the condom instead of each others’ hands, and maybe the speech bubble should be shaped normally, with actual words (that don’t pertain to love) inside it. To me, putting a condom inside of a heart is putting a Band-Aid over a stab wound.

*Yes, I realize that I’m perpetuating the ad by posting it here, but who the heck reads this stuff anyway? 🙂

**Well, it certainly doesn’t have to be that way, but that’s the subject of many other posts and PSAs that mostly end up preaching to the choir.