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August 2006

A life choice: passivity or interactivity

There are two kinds of sports fans: the spectator and the athlete. Similarly, two opposing conceptions of life have emerged in modern societies around the world: the choice between life as passive consumption or active participation.

The difference between these two lifestyles depends upon how we approach our information / entertainment consumption, as well as how we conceive our social life.  It is a choice between being passive or interactive. 

Within the backdrop of the consumerist society of shopping malls and advertisements, the passive consumer mentality was largely brought about by technologies created soon after the industrial revolution: Radio, Film, TV, etc.  The passive consumer was awed by entertainment content, and was made to feel small by the media's portrayal of other people's lives.  What was sold as "big" and "important" by Hollywood was desired and coveted, and the consumer began to feel as though his or her real life was boring and inconsequential.  Lives became full of imitation rather than invention.  Real friendships were replaced with characters in sitcoms.  Real-life romances were replaced with soap operas.  It was considered enough to sit back and be entertained for hours without thinking or without even moving, much like a heroin addict on a trip.

But today, while barely visible to the consumer culture machine, massive numbers of people around the world are sharing an entirely new conception of life: active participation.  The driving force behind this movement, of course, is the best tool human beings have ever had for interacting: the Internet.

We see ourselves as characters in our own films.  We are bored with most films and everything on TV...for the simple reason that our own lives have become more interesting! 

We don't see ourselves as subjects to some pre-defined system.  We don't follow all the rules.  We don't succumb to the pressure imposed on us by mass media and all those who are addicted to it.  We don't like doing anything passively.  We feel that time alone, spent in isolation, is time wasted.

We do see beauty all around us.  We do take risks and even make mistakes.  We learn from our mistakes.  We ask questions.  We don't regret.  We meet people.  We love freely even at the risk of a broken heart.  We write.  We play.  We dance.  We love music.  We talk all night.  We touch.  We value relationships more than anything else.  We are connected.   We don't respect boundaries.  The only authority we listen to is our inner voice.  We are bruised.  We are experienced.  We have character.  Even the youngest amoung us possess a life wisdom that transcends even the aged passive consumer. 

We are bored to tears with the people in our lives who conform to the passive consumption model.   They sit back and wonder what it would be like to live life fully.  We know.   

Posted by Mark Manney.