15 Minute Relationships

Today my daughter and I were discussing the peculiarities of the modern world and its enhanced opportunities for connecting as well as for literary voyeurism and exhibitionism. YouTube, My Space, Facebook, blogging: reality TV has come to the web.

In other times, this sort of exhibitionism was reserved for essayists, novelists, and the like. If they weren’t talented or honest enough with their craft, people didn’t read them and they (presumably) faded into oblivion as their essay collections or novels went out of print. This isn’t the case today, when anyone can have his or her 15 minutes of fame (which will be archived or preserved for posterity on YouTube), just as Andy Warhol predicted.

Yet somehow I doubt that even Andy would have predicted the in-your-face-ishness of places like My Space or YouTube, where anyone with a digital or video camera can become notorious, and where people think that human beings can be reduced to several thousand bytes and frozen like embryos for later revivification.

People seem to think that there are shortcuts to intimacy, as if putting up a My Space page, or blogging regularly, will build real relationships.

“It’s like making Inside Edition efforts, but imagining Lord of the Rings relationships and endings,” my daughter observed.

I loved her comment, and (with some relief) realized it was true. Relationships have always reflected the time and effort invested in them. If we make Inside Edition efforts, we’re going to get Inside Edition results. Only people willing to go on dangerous quests with tried-and-true companions can hope to come away with a friend like Samwise Gamgee.

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