Keeping Up


Recently, I was in Florida visiting my mother for a few days. The bedroom that I stay in has a TV. No matter how many times I go through this, I have the experience of initially feeling excited at the prospect.of having such a guilty pleasure at my finger tips. I imagine how entertaining and how amazing it will be to lie in bed and have access to what 500 channels has to offer. Some old and misty feeling that comes up promising I will get a chance to have something I am otherwise “missing out” on.

And yet, what I forget each and every time is how gross I feel on some level when I am done. It’s like the equivalent of being a kid, and getting to eat candy corn morning, noon and night after Halloween. At first it feels like such an awesome decadence, only to find in the end how desperate you are for your mother to take it all away from you and cook you something real. Something of value. Something you can sink your teeth into.

I think I especially felt this way this time because this time I ran head first into “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” Sure, I had heard the references. I had even seen Kim splashed all over the tabloid-type magazines at the check-out counter. I thought I had a sense of what this was all about. Not even close.

In the episode I had the great and good fortune to tune into, Kim, her entourage and her family had traveled to Thailand. Thailand for goodness sake. If you know anything about these people, you know they would not be able to make it 5 minutes outside of Beverly Hills. And yet, there they were, in a Beverly Hills equivalent in Thailand.

So, while it took me some time to catch up to the setting, that would soon be completely eclipsed by the incessant self-involvement, self-centered, self-absorbed, did I say narcissistic drive to this “reality” show? I want to spare myself and you from elucidating on any more details, other than to say, how is it that we have elevated this to the status that it possesses in our culture? And while likely many of us would deny ever tuning in, someone is. As a matter of fact, millions and millions of us someone’s are.

I do not know whether to be more concerned for us and what we are being subjected to and led to believe. Or for the Kardashians, who although may look like the rich and famous heroes in their own stage performance, may wind up being the ones more harmed than any of the spectators to this distorted depiction of human life.

What I am especially concerned about here is the message that this and its enormous cultural influence is having on our children. Messages of self-centered-ness that run contrary to our best, biggest and brightest virtues, ideals, and values of being part of something more than yourself. Messages our children are receiving from a “reality” show and are “following” to the detriment of an actual and real life; one that is based on meaning, purpose, worthwhile expression and real connection.

Beyond any of the specifics around how our children engage with the screen technologies, when you strip it all down, what we are really talking about here is nothing less than who they are, and who they are to become. Nothing less than how they are to live their precious lives; what it is they will make most important, and what it is that we are teaching them about what they should expect from life.

It stands to reason then, given the enormity of this, that we need to be asking ourselves some very big questions around whether or not the “selfie” life, as brought to us by The Kardashians et al, is in alignment with the most noteworthy of our values and ideals. Whether or not this type of “entertainment” is what will make for a great human being, and what it is that our world most needs right now from all of us.

And while some may say that it’s no big deal, it’s just entertainment. Fun. A harmless distraction. Is it? Not according to the multitude of girls looking up to and hoping to build lives based on keeping up with Kim Kardashian. Those young ones learning to believe that your ability to look and come off as “perfect” all the time is the royal road to success, happiness, and admiration.

Is it any wonder they are believing such things? We, the adults in their lives, have too often vacated the role of determining for them what is of value, and what is not, leaving a giant void for the likes of the Kardashians to fill. We, as the adults, have so lost track of the essential biological, psychological, social and emotional necessities of childhood that we have forgotten one of its central truths. That being, that our children model themselves after the examples they are given in life. That includes what they are watching on a screen. And that includes what they see us doing.

Couldn’t we do better? What about Keeping Up With The Dalai Lama? Or, Keeping Up With The Woman Who Found A Way To Give Shelter To Dozens Of Homeless People During A Dangerous Cold Snap? Or, Keeping Up With New Zealand’s Ban On Assault Weapons? Or, how about this one, Keeping Up With A Parent Who Has Gotten Clear On What Kids Really Need Beyond The Demands And The Seductions of Screen Life?

We have some very, very important things to figure out here as a culture. Real things. Valuable things. Things that our children absolutely require to sink their teeth into as the basis for a good and nourishing life.