My On Demand Life
I was reflecting, as I was washing my dishes and staring blankly out the window this evening, on my childhood television-viewing experience. Yeah, it’s weird. Just go here with me for a minute.
I remember, I loved this show called Pappyland. I was about five years old, and my brain was starting to fire in all sorts of creative directions. Pappyland was a television series featuring a strange old man in a green bandana who lived to show children the basics of drawing — and some simple life lessons, to boot. During the four precious years the show was on television, I spent hundreds of pieces of paper with Pappy.
But here’s the kicker: the show aired at some ghastly hour of the morning — 5:30 or 6, I believe. I get up at that time now, because I have to, because I am an adult and have these things called responsibilities. But then, I was a child; and 5:30 or 6 in the morning was fucking early.
We didn’t have TiVo, On Demand, Pay Per View, or any other “I’m busy, I’ll save this for later” functionalities on our bulky ass television. I was so dedicated to seeing this program every time it was on, that I was insistent on sneaking into the living room, under cover of darkness, making sure the volume was nearly all the way down, readying my drawing supplies, and taking in the magic that was Pappyland. There was a sense of urgency — a nagging feeling that if I missed this one, I would never get it back.
Flash forward to present day. My generation’s idea (mine included) of urgency is Snapchat or Instagram Stories. If you don’t see what Bella Hadid had for dinner, or that secret birthday show Kendrick Lamar gave (happy belated, Kung Fu Kenny) within 24 hours, it’s — poof — gone for good. You’ll never have the opportunity to — oh, wait, she posted another plate of spaghetti?
You get the idea.
For the most part, I cherish the lack of emphasis on permanency that the Millennial generation observes. We’re not so focused on remaining planted — buying houses, starting families, living that white picket fence life our parents tended to value. I can get with that, because I’m a freewheelin’, freelancin’, piece-your-life-together-so-it-works-for-you Millennial, and I’m pretty damn happy! But I also have some hesitation.
The more we accept Instagram stories as a substitute for urgency or permanency, then, with every tap or swipe to the left, we relinquish our right to savour. If everything is transient, nothing is worth remembering, because something else is always around the corner.
I constantly find myself telling stories of past events to friends (or strangers) and pulling out my iPhone. A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? What a beautiful shortcut I have in my pocket! People used to tell stories and weave images with words. Words, themselves, were valuable. We don’t have to do that anymore. We have actual pictures to evoke the same feelings. So here goes another television analogy…
My boyfriend and I LOVE the Twin Peaks series (the original). In preparation for the 2017 continuation (which is…alright, so far), we decided to watch Fire, Walk With Me. Neither of us had ever seen it. When we finished, we sort of squinted at the TV, then at each other, and sighed. We wished we hadn’t watched it. Not because it was a bad movie — because it wasn’t! (That said, mom…if you’re reading this…don’t watch it.) We didn’t like it because it was so painfully literal.
We spent weeks watching the original series, which gradually built a story around Laura Palmer by way of allusion. Viewers very rarely saw any evidence of the blood on the key players’ hands (including Laura’s), but we still were able to weave our own perfect image of what was happening behind the scenes, or, what had happened leading up to her gruesome and mysterious murder. Fire, Walk With Me was the death of that. Each and every moment of the story was told in graphically descriptive images that we’ll never unsee. The story our imaginations had woven was shattered.
Here’s the point: I love Instagram. I’m very social-media-lly active. But I still think, with every post I see or upload, about how precious words and memories were before the digital age; and I worry about how many wonderful things I would be able (or unable) to explain in detail, if I didn’t have the most beautiful shortcut known to man, right here in my pocket.