Does anyone thing the Internet brings more harm than good? I mean, sure, information is at our fingertips, and we’re supposedly more connected to people. But are we really? And is the connection a good thing? I mean, with chat rooms came Dateline specials about perverts having easy access to naïve teenagers. With the Internet comes Web MD, to the millionth power. EVERYONE HAS CANCER! You’re constantly connected to work. You have a cell phone, and email, and VPN. You can’t ever disconnect. You’re at home, but your laptop’s connected to work, you’re worried you’re going to miss an email, and you’re constantly texting business connections and taking phone calls. It’s not good for your health, and it’s not good for your family or friends. No one likes being second place to a device. We can’t fall asleep at night because we’re looking at our tablets and phones and laptop screens until the very last second. Half-asleep monitoring stocks, checking on Facebook, or researching. Researching. Researching.
And even worse are people’s inabilities to connect in person. I’m guilty of this. I often don’t understand why my friends, who can text me, call me. Just send me a text! I don’t know why I need to meet with a co-worker in person when we can hash it out over email. Only email tends to lose something in translation. Probably because no one’s able to focus for longer than 15-20 seconds. In fact, I’m surprised you’re still reading this. Are you? Or are you just skimming and hoping to catch the major points?
But beyond all of this is the competition the Internet seems to breed. I’ve never seen such an immature display. And the sad part is, it’s considered normal now. It’s normal to brag about what we’ve built or cooked or bought or done. It’s normal to post self-indulgent pictures of ourselves .These pictures are called “selfies” – although you say “selfie” and I think you’re masturbating, hey, my mind goes there. But I guess it is ego masturbation. I hear some people take twenty or thirty shots of themselves to have just the right one. I had no idea this was a thing. When I was asked to take a picture of a new haircut, I had to take about 20 pictures just to get my face in the picture! But I can see how easy it would be to keep taking and re-taking until you get just the right one. Plus, the stream of “likes” you get when you post a new picture is definitely addicting to some people. They change their profile picture a few times a week. I never understood why until I realized there is a weird sort of satisfaction with the immediate “likes” and attention you get when you post something new. I could post the most terrible picture of myself, and I’d probably get ten likes. Weird.
But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to talk about competition. Does it seem like the Internet breeds the need to prove you’re the best at everything. The best mom. The best cook. The best fan of a sport or a team. The best at a certain diet. The best at exercise. The best butcher, baker and candlestick maker. Is there, in theory, a best of each thing somewhere? Yes, probably. But it’s also more likely there are millions of equally obsessed/dedicated/passionate people in the world. I always say at work, “You want an average person’s opinion of something? Ask me. I feel like I’m very average in my expectations and opinions.” My co-workers thought this was an insult. I just thought I was being honest. The older I get, though, the more I realize I’m just more empathetic than them. I can look at a new product, or a change in a product, or read a communication and say, “Hey, if I’m Suzie Schmoe over here, this is what she might think.” I don’t have to BE Suzie. But so many people are only capable of thinking about themselves. Their world is narrow and their view is very inward.
The Internet only exacerbates this. It’s not good.
During March Madness, everyone’s out to prove how much they know basketball because their bracket’s right or number one or whatever. Hello, there are sports guys who follow basketball for a living, and they’re missing these things. Beyond that, as the teams are dwindled down to a smaller number, people naturally get excited and jump on bandwagons. And the Internet’s a perfect avenue for everyone to say, “I’ve been there since the start, I’m a better fan.” WHO CARES!?! Just enjoy the ride. You’re not the best fan out there. In fact, it would be hard to define what makes a person the best fan. Does choosing them to win the entire tournament make you a better fan? Does owning a thousand shirts make you a better fan? Having gone to that school? Purchased season tickets? Slept with half the team? How do you define it? And furthermore, who the hell cares? Why are you so self-involved you care to prove you’re better than everyone else? And why’s it a competition?
I’ve been working lately to improve my diet, to find what’s best for me, for my body. Just like snowflakes, bodies are unique and individual. That’s why it’s YOUR body. Do some things work across many people? Sure. Most people are healthier if they eat more fruits and vegetables. But there are people who are allergic to berries, or can’t digest carrots. There are people who are miserable when they try to digest cooked broccoli. Because of the unique nature, and trying to find what’s right for ME, I’ve been doing elimination diets, and trying to get better at eating all real foods. But there’s a lot of blurry gray area. And there are plenty of ways to do what I’ve done in the past “better.” For example, I’ve always eaten beef. It is probably better to eat grass-fed, pastured beef. It’s also good to incorporate organ meats. And to drink bone broth. But in the process of learning these things, I had trouble finding bones from pastured animals. Did that mean I should give up totally on making broth? Some people said yes. But I made so much progress from drinking bone broth from regular old bones – mostly purchased at Asian markets, and none of them were labeled with how the animals were raised. And, for me, learning to make bone broth was the first step. I worked on my recipe and process for months. I researched, and applied and stopped worrying about the little things. Some people said, “Never put non-organic veggies in your broth.” I didn’t worry. I didn’t let them make me feel like a failure. Six months later? I now make my broth with grass-fed, pastured beef bones AND organ meats. Do I eat organ meats, yet? No. I’m not there, yet. But maybe one day I will be. Others would have me feel like a failure for not doing it their way. Or the BEST way. But why can’t I just work my way up to where I’d like to be one day? I get a lot of benefit from the changes I’ve made over the past year and a half. It truly has been a journey.
But everywhere I turn, someone’s telling me I need to change this or that. There are Herbalife peddlers around every corner. Or someone on a diet (that works for them) losing weight faster than me. Why does it have to be a competition? Why can’t I do what’s right for me right now?
I watch mothers compete with one another for the best Halloween, Valentine’s Day or Christmas treats. I know some of them aren’t competing, but others out there make it a competition.
I watch one person post their improved blood pressure, and fifteen others “out-do” him with their even better numbers.
It’s insane. And unhealthy. And for some reason, it’s considered normal and acceptable. It blows my mind.
Look, I’m living my life. And I’m happy with where I am. I’m not competing to marry or have babies first. If either of those things happens, great. If not, there are plenty of other things I can do with my life. I’m not competing to see who loses weight the fastest. I’m happy when others lose. I know it’s hard work, but I’m staying the course of my lifestyle. I’m not competing for chef of the year. I share recipes I think are great or to show what I’m eating when it makes me happy, but I don’t share so someone can say, “Oh, you had meatloaf? Well, we had steak and lobster!” Great. I’m happy for you, but I’m not competing with you. If I post that I finally ran half a mile, I don’t care that someone else ran fifteen. I’m happy they did, but I’m not competing with them. I’m competing with yesterday’s run. Or last week’s farthest distance.
I don’t see why people aren’t happy for each other without trying to outdo. I don’t see why anyone wants to be or thinks they’re the best at anything. There are so many people in the world, do you know how hard it would be to be the best? I wish the internet were used to share knowledge, not push it. I wish it were used to encourage, not discourage progress. I wish it were used to lift others up, not lift yourself up.
The Internet. I blame Al Gore.