“In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has receded into a representation.”Guy DeBord
As I researched information for another book to write, I stumbled upon the above quote. After a few days, the quote stuck with me. It made more and more sense the longer it sat in my brain.
In today’s society, life is all about images and appearances. We are bombarded with constant visual stimulation, and it can be hard to escape the pressure to conform to societal standards. In a world where media and technology constantly surround us, we must take a step back and evaluate what is truly important to us. This quote from French sociologist Guy Debord sums up how our lives have become consumed by representations of reality rather than reality itself.
This quote speaks to how we now experience life in a society driven by technology and commerce. We live in an “accumulation of spectacles,” meaning that no matter what we do, it is always presented to us through a media platform or window dressing – mere appearances or illusions. We often mistake this facade for reality itself and forget that actual direct experience has been replaced with representations or images. This speaks to our lost genuine connections with our peers and environment, leading us toward disengagement and isolation instead.
Social media, television, and advertising are everywhere. In today’s society, these sources of communication attempt to shape our beliefs, create value systems and dictate social norms. We are surrounded by images and messages that can dictate how we look or think about ourselves, which can profoundly affect our sense of self-esteem. People should be aware of their ability to resist such messages. We need to recognize our autonomy when deciding what should influence us and develop our own beliefs independently of the avalanche of bombardment we experience daily.
I was teaching a leadership class and proposed to the class to look inward at where our value systems are created. I used the example of the television show, Survivor. It depicts constant deceit, manipulation, and backstabbing as the primary means to win. I asked, “If we watched the entire series without a break, would that change our value system?”
Sadly, it likely would.
We are consumed
We have become slaves, captives to the false realities that social media, pop culture, and other forms of media push onto us. Our lives have become delineated between real experiences and their misrepresentations presented in a shallow, distorted light. We spend all our time admiring this curated version of someone else’s life instead of creating unique stories. Between mindlessly scrolling through our feeds or comparing ourselves to others, we have forgotten how to live our own lives.
We obsess over posting the perfect picture and having the perfect caption. The perfect hashtag. It is the worst of the attention economy.
Disconnecting from the messages we are constantly inundated with is critical for creating our realities. We must take a step back, pause and reflect on the information directed at us, and ensure that we can separate what we genuinely believe from what has been thrust upon us from outside sources. Reclaiming our ability to personalize the world around us is paramount, and it all starts with understanding how our influences have shaped our perspective. Until we do this, we are not in control – instead, we become passive pawns of those wishing to shape their narrative.
We are what we consume.
It honestly becomes that simple.
Surround yourself with good people, and become a better person.
To live a more meaningful and fulfilling life, one should make space for moments of reflection. This can be done by taking a walk in nature, engaging in conversations with people around us, or setting intentional times throughout the day when devices are turned off and you are aware of your senses. All these activities will help promote well-being, reduce stress levels and increase our capacity for joy. Investing time in these activities will lead to experiencing life more abundantly and deeply.
Reconnecting with whom we are meant to be.
Human beings must think and act independently to reach their fullest potential. We all need to recognize that taking the reins of our life allows us to have autonomy and strive for personal growth. When we become aware of our choices and are responsible for our decisions, we discover an inner strength that enables us to stay focused and achieve goals. Living life on one’s terms can be a liberating experience as it gives us power, control, and confidence to become whom we want to be.
We must recognize outside messages’ power in our lives and take steps to disconnect from them. When we do this, we can create our reality and live our own lives rather than being controlled by outside forces. We must live our own lives rather than letting others dictate how we should live.
We should stop comparing our social media lives to others. We should stop trying to keep up with the lives that other people portray on social media. Unplug, unwind and be a better person to be a good person. Not for the illusion of being a good person.