In my previous article I talked about subscriptions; how they’re designed to fly under the radar payment wise, whilst at the same time taking both effort and autonomy away from us. I want to spend our time today to look into a different aspect of effort reduction: immediate gratification as taught to us by the media.
The reason I wrote this article, and I mean the direct motivation for it, was having watched the amazing movie Hidden Figures whilst on an airplane. The film follows three black women working at NASA in the sixties, zooming in on their brilliance, but also their struggles as a result of both their race and gender in the States (a topic still very relevant today). But at the end of the film they have all persevered and Karma came up good for our three leading ladies. We can all leave the cinema (or the plane) feeling better than we entered it. What an uplift. Now you might be wondering, “Merle, what on earth is your issue with this film?!” Good question! It does what a lot of media does. It presents us with years and years of hard work, struggle, determination and discipline, and then presents it back to us with a happy ending in under 2.5 hours. “But it’s only a film! Anyone can see that several years have spanned. At least that none of this happened instantaneously.” Can you? And if so, why can you? Because you know better? Because you have experienced the alternative? Because you have enough life experience to know that things don’t come immediately? Such as making promotion, landing an amazing job, becoming wealthy (any crypto millionaires here?). Now imagine that you don’t. That somehow, and it’s really not that unlikely, media is all you know. You know Hollywood, E!, Netflix, YouTube, TikTok. Now tell me that younger generations should be able to figure out what’s real from fake and sped up. If you’ve only ever been show the end result and not the hard work, or the hard work condensed in less than 2 hours for your convenience, how would you know what it really takes?
From an absolute masterpiece to an absolute dumpster fire: Netflix’s The Ultimatum, Marry or Move on. Now I don’t need you to have watched this mess to be able to be part of the debate, let me summarize it for you: several couples go onto a Netflix show presented by Vanessa and Nick Lachey (red flag). Of these several couples each consisted out of a person who desperately wanted to get married (to their partner) whilst the other person wasn’t exactly sure. The person “who was ready” signed up to the show to give their partner an ultimatum: to go through the social experiment the show was supposed to be and come out married. The social experiment was spending 3 weeks with another person (someone from the other couples) and essentially be single whilst living with this new person, getting to know that person in varying levels of intimacy (it’s Netflix people…). After those 3 “great” weeks they do the same with their actual partner: live together and figure out a whole bunch of issues that they most definitely had over months and years in the span of 3 weeks, constantly comparing their “old” relationship to the “new” relationship they just built. Yes, it’s a lot… Reason why I’m bringing this up? Of all those couples the majority was early 20s and none of them had been together longer than 2.5 years. They had been together less than 30 months. Yet somehow half of them “needed” to get married. I’m not kidding when I say “needed to get married”. It was as if they were working on their fast-tracked 5 year plans. They were so keen to get that status good of being married. It was time to start working on their “happily ever after”, without knowing at all the type of work this entails. The end goal but not the work. Guess who taught them that?
Beyond Hollywood and fairy tales and all that jazz there’s also what the media does and doesn’t print. Everyone loves an underdog who makes it. It’s a very popular story arc across any platform. We also love the Schadenfreude of the privileged falling down. Especially if someone new and “more deserving” arises from that downfall. But there’s a risk to that too. Where’s the story of the rest of us? Or are we all on our own journeys towards greatness? Because I don’t expect to be in a Forbes list any time soon. Or any time at all to be honest. Simon Sinek outlines this as well in his many, many talks: younger generations are only aware of the end goal (become madly successful), they do see the peak of the mountain, but have no idea how to climb the fucker. Once they start climbing the mountain - constantly facing the many frustrations of being told “no”, having to be a teamplayer, having someone steal/take credit for their work, work towards someone else’s goals and other office politics - that peak seems further and further away. Reality and expectations were so poorly aligned that a lot of younger people become incredibly disillusioned and demotivated to the point of burnout. This stuff is serious.
Whether you agree with my argument or not is neither here nor there. People are products of their surroundings. And if you’re constantly surrounded by success stories neatly wrapped up in less than 2 hours, or less than 1500 words (printed media is no better for it), well that’s what you’ll internalize and aim for. That next 1500 words need to be about you. A 20-something year old who still has a long way to go. If it makes you feel any better, I’m also that 20-something year old. I’m no better than any of us. I grew up with the same media… Welcome to Disillusioned Anonymous.