Thursday, September 08, 2016
I'm pretty sure it was Karl Marx who opined that "religion is the opiate of the masses." Since those days, the consuming public has a lot more choice when it comes to opiates. There's television. Music. The internet. But more than anything, I'd crown personal techno-vanity as the all-time champion.
By personal techno-vanity, I mean all those useless gadgets, data and devices that allow you to monitor activities that carry no real importance to anyone, anywhere, at any time. There are pricey apps that monitor every step you take and there are expensive wrist devices that track them. For a modest monthly fee, the app will send and store your data someplace on the cloud so that you can retrieve and analyze it at any time of the day or night.
The question, however, is why would you want to?
I've got no quarrel with phones and devices that make you more communicative and productive with other people. I'm a big fan of those. The stuff that gets me scratching my head is the paraphernalia that does little other than promote an unhealthy level of self-absorption. Do you really need an app to remind you not to lock your kids in a hot car? How fast your heart beats? Your core body temperature? What are you really going to get out of monitoring your body mass index other than -- possibly -- bragging rights with the righteous dudes at the sports bar?
I know people who run. I know people who swim. I know people who lift, bro. What I don't know is why they make such a big deal out of it, or why they require little wrist devices to enslave them.
Actually, I do know why. It's because companies like Apple and Nike have discovered that vanity is the opiate of the masses. They know that you not only love yourself, you practically worship yourself. And if they bolster that illusion of self-importance by creating pointless hardware and software, you're going to spend all kinds of money in an effort of believing that you really are that important.
Newsflash: You're not that important.
Oh, I know that in this age of social justice warriors and snowflakes and participation trophies you might think you're something special, but you're not and neither is all that extraneous data you're hoarding. Have to watch your blood pressure? Your glucose levels? Okay, I get that. But wirelessly linking your smart phone to your shoes? Really?
And if that's not enough, what's the deal with running triathlons and Iron Man competitions? What's everyone trying to prove to everyone else? How much do you really need to bulk up? A host of millennial brands perpetuate these worthless pursuits, featuring fitness models running through the countryside while everyone else is at the office making a living and paying bills. The truth is that these fictitious fitness freaks never had to buy fitness equipment or use supplements or software to get in shape -- they're all in their twenties. They were born that way.
But don't tell that to brands like Bowflex, who prefer you believe that being cut is what every fifty year old really wants to be, when I'd venture to say that what the average fifty year old really wants is to be left the hell alone so he can order a piece of cheesecake without having to endure a lecture about cholesterol and triglycerides.
There was a time when people worked and played. And that's all they did. Nobody felt the need to analyze data from the family picnic or check a website for the precise moment high tide rushed up on the beach. There was a time when you could have a good time just to have a good time. You could run because you loved the way fresh grass felt on the soles of your bare feet. There was no time target. No personal best. It just felt good.
So relax. Unplug. You're not that important, despite what you think the data indicates.