In the song “1000 Years” by The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon sings “I heard about a woman once, who did everything ever asked of her. She died last week and her last words were, “It wasn’t worth it.” In Fight Club the narrator (Edward Norton) creates Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) to break him of his conformity and consumerism. I cringed when on Black Mirror they portrayed a world where success and access depended on one’s “rating.” I cringed because we do not live far from this reality. I reference “1000 Years” and Fight Club because they are artistic works seeking to address reality. Night of the Living Dead (1968) addressed the notion that humans were becoming nothing more than mindless zombies (See Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue).
We live in a world of facades and cognitive dissonance. We idolize, like, and pursue a “perfection” we know is fake. We know the biggest bodybuilders use steroids and devote their entire life to the sport. The best athletes do the same. We know these things because they have told the world. They have been caught and punished. Scandal after scandal exposes what everyone seeks to ignore. The tricks of magazine covers and filtered social media posts are exposed in a day and age obsessed with knowledge, documentaries, and podcasts. Yet, we seem to willfully and painfully ignore them.
Hulu’s “Age of Influence“ is a damning indictment of social media influencers. They become consumed with their perception of others; they begin to break. They lose themselves to their personas. They chase the impossible dream of pleasing everyone or achieving the most “likes” and “subscribes.” Before your very eyes you watch as they crumble, as they all but plead for help, only to ignore it all. Their cognitive dissonance is too great.
Ours is a world of great diversity. It is what makes humanity so amazing. We must not ignore our own knowledge and observations. We know others do not live up to their filters because we like their photos and see them in reality only moments later. We see ourselves in the mirror and then admire our filtered photos, the ones where painstaking work went into picking the perfect one.
My Social Psychology teacher once asked us, “Do you like everyone you meet?” The answer is absolutely not. Their reply, “Then why do you expect everyone to like you?!” Humanity is too vast and diverse to please everyone. Such a pursuit strips us of ourselves. We become fragmented as we seek to please. We become miserable, bankrupt, and imprisoned as we keep up with the Joneses. We teach our children this is acceptable. We create the notion that unobtainable perfection is what one must achieve. We then wonder why suicide rates are climbing.
We must be true to ourselves. We must find joy in the world around us in being ourselves. We must not become the puppet of the masses, each group pulling every sting in different directions. We must also accept that others should do the same–that others must love themselves. Do not live a life where your last words were, “It wasn’t worth it.”
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.