Blogpost

The Viral Life Expectancy Has Gone Viral

It was the latest thing! The internet was on fire with different videos. Everyone from celebrities to little kids were taking part in this craze. For about two weeks, I saw it go through the entire life cycle. The birth, life and death all happened in such a short period of time that it was impossible to miss it. It didn’t last long enough for anyone to care that it was gone. Of course I’m talking about the “Harlem Shake”. If you had something else in mind, that’s not a problem because I could have gone with other examples. Flappy bird, dabbing, fidget spinners, bottle flipping, etc. Each had their own amount of time in the spotlight but none lasted too long. Fads are not new and by no means am I suggesting that they should go away. My fear is that everything has become a fad.

As a child in the 80’s, I saw the rise and fall of so many fads I could “gag myself with a spoon!” I had Bugle Boy Jeans a year after they were cool. My mullet was never quite right and convincing my mother to buy jeans that already had rips in them was unthinkable. Even though I didn’t fully partake in any of these fads, I was influenced by the culture around me enough to notice what was “in”. As I said previously, it’s not that fads are new. Each of the fads that came and went through my childhood stuck around long enough to be remembered. None were life altering but they usually hung around long enough to get associated with a year or part of life. The life expectancy of a fad was long enough to make it memorable and possibly meaningful.

In the age of the internet, the viral nature of media has caused fads to appear out of nowhere. They disappear almost as quickly. Very few cultural phenomena have the “staying power” to hang on for a year. Often the life of a fad is measured in weeks. While this isn’t a problem on its own, let’s face it, the Harlem Shake didn’t deserve much more of our time. The issue is the cultural impact on our perception of life expectancy. People have become accustomed to the idea of things disappearing quickly. So things that matter or require time to develop and flourish get swept aside because they don’t peak early enough or burn slower than people’s comfort level.

In a world filled with fads that seem like mental candy, have we lost our ability to recognize the things of substance? Are we so accustomed to anticipating the new that we are unable to determine if the thing in front of us deserves the time to develop? Our minds are like muscles in so many ways. I fear that these short spurts of attention are training us for the wrong game. Most of the things that really matter in life are the result of long term thinking. If that long term muscle never gets exercised, it will atrophy. Eventually we will only be equipped to deal with the short term, prepackaged, watered down version of life. While it might be easier, I don’t think it will be more fulfilling. So be aware! Some things, people and situations in your life deserve more than just a passing glance. You need to develop the awareness to recognize them and have the patience muscle to see them through. There will always be another shiny thing laying in the road. Most of it is just trash that you’ll discard. Most of the things of value require some mining!

Play the long game!

Pete

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