Sunday, November 1, 2020

A different way to look at voting

When I was a lad, I remember watching an episode of "Siskel & Ebert," and Roger Ebert said something I'll always remember. The two movie critics agreed on the panning of a blockbuster and were stunned at how well the big-budget schlock was doing at the box office.

"Movie viewers need to know that whenever they buy a ticket," Ebert said, "that is a vote for more movies like it. If you don't want more bad movies, stop going to bad movies."

Amen, Ebert. 

As we near the end of the voting season for the 2020 Presidential Election, I'd like to build on Ebert's statement. In the age of smartphones, data, Netflix and social media, my hope is that we all see what we do on a daily basis, what we Google, what we buy, we what we invest in, as voting. Whatever we search for, whatever we retweet, whatever we consume are votes for more of that. Are we aware of this, and do we have peace of mind with what we're voting for?

Of course, vote in this, and all, government elections, if you somehow haven't already. I'm not saying to disregard our civic duty of voting in elections, but we also have a consumer duty to stop buying junk and only to purchase things that enhance our lives and we recommend.

Marie Kondo and living in uncluttered, well-considered spaces was all the rage about a year ago, and I certainly agree that I prefer to live in junk-free zones. I also prefer not to buy junk, things I use once or twice and then never consider again. I prefer only to purchase items and consumables that I actually use and don't make the world a worse place.
This idea is actually an easy sell. Don't buy junk! The more difficult sell is about our time. As most people realize (or should realize), the two most precious commodities in modern living are No. 1 — time and No. 2 — money. For many people, however, it's no slam dunk to convince them about the importance of their time. But isn't time way more finite than money?

Many people leave inheritances to their loved ones. Their money outlives their time. Even if you are a billionaire, you are like all of us and have roughly 30,000 days as a mortal. Isn't it a shame that many of us mortals waste our days, watching, eating or scrolling through things we don't actually recommend?

I believe COVID-19 times have made us more aware of exactly how we spend our money and how we consume — in the physical world. But I wonder if we are as aware of how we are manipulated by social media, how we binge watch and how we consume digitally. Yes, the word "manipulated" is loaded, but our social media feeds are so ridiculously concocted toward us through data that is the best available word.

I don't think we soak in what we consume digitally. Back in the era of "Siskel & Ebert," which was on the air from 1986 to '99, one debate was this: "Should we stay through the credits at the end of a film?"

I personally was all for staying through the credits, soaking in the movie and just reflecting. Nowadays, once a movie is over on Netflix, another one automatically starts in 10 seconds. What?!?

It's obvious to me that we live in a much less reflective world than 30 years ago, but I'm keeping hope alive. We are going through the worst year in American history in my lifetime by many, many measures, and I'm hopeful that we will be more reflective — right before we scroll to the next post.