I was thinking today about a few of the popular things people do. People spend a lot of time on the computer, and from there they spend a lot of time on the internet, particularly on facebook, and from there you get all sorts of things that are linked to facebook. What started me on this train of thinking was Pinterest.
I’ve never used it, but since I use facebook, I see all the things people post (pin?). It seems like the vast majority of my friends who use it are women, and the thing they post about most are weddings. I think weddings are great, and have rather strong opinions about them in light of recent controversies. I also realize that culturally, and perhaps even naturally, women are dreaming about their wedding day since they are little. Men have their own way of doing this, but it generally doesn’t lend itself to things like pinterest, since we don’t tend to think much about dresses and things.
I think the temptation to fantasize about getting married becomes particularly strong when you’re in college or fresh out, since that’s the age society tells you to get married, and if all your friends are getting married around you. The friends who are engaged or married are rightfully excited and so they tell all their friends about it too. Unfortunately, this excitement can boil over into a sort of pushing, even if they don’t mean to.
Getting back on track here, I think a lot of this combines into something that might not be healthy. Don’t hear me saying that pinterest (and things like it) is evil and bad. I think for most, it is something that can be useful and is mainly silly. However, I think it provides a means of escape that can easily turn into escapism. I think the difference between escape and escapism can be more subtle than we think it is.
When I was first thinking about the difference, I thought that the difference was in a need. If you feel a need to escape something, then it’s escapism, but if you don’t, then it’s just escape. However, I think that’s too simple. I think it could lie more in the amount of time we spend on them, or in a pattern. Perhaps an example could help.
Say you go watch a movie with some friends when it comes out in theaters and afterwards you talk about it and if it was particularly good you might see it again in theaters, but likely you’ll wait until it comes out on DVD. I think this would be escape. It’s entertainment that, depending on the content of the movie, isn’t dangerous at all and can be healthy and fun or even edifying and uplifting. An example of how that could turn into escapism might be when you find yourself going home after work and make dinner and watch a movie or two or three and then go to bed, and that’s what you do most nights.
It might not be a conscious thought process of “life sucks, I need a way to block it out or forget about it” but rather it might just be that you’re tired and watching movies or spending hours on facebook is simply easy thing to do. I’m certainly guilty of spending far more time on mindless entertainment like facebook than I should.
You might be wondering what the point is. I think we have to start asking why questions. Why might something like pinterest or facebook or the computer or video games or movies etc. move from escape to escapism? I think the fact that everybody and their dog (honestly, why do people make facebook pages for their pets?) is doing it, that it’s just a fact of society and we shouldn’t think about it too much. However, if you saw someone that did nothing but spend time on facebook and didn’t really have many friends and didn’t do anything else, we would all know it was wrong, even though we might not be able to say why.
I think people seek escape for a variety of reasons. Culturally speaking, we’re fighting an uphill battle. We aren’t really taught how to think critically about anything, so at best we might feel something is wrong, but that’s all the further we can go, so we just wait for someone else to say something. We also seem to have a very hard time being alone and doing something like reading or writing. We have to be “multitasking” on our phones or our computers or any other number of electronic devices. Add to that the fact that life can just be really stressful sometimes. You can throw any number of things into the pot here, but the bottom line seems to be that we are lazy and stressed out because life is hard. At the end of the day you don’t want to sit and think about things that might be difficult. Or perhaps you have been avoiding it so long that you may have lost your ability to think about it too deeply. Doing that might be too painful.
It’s far easier to sit on pinterest and look at wedding dresses and fantasize about all the innumerable “what ifs” and “if onlys.” Or to look at all the recipes and think the same thing. Or to watch movies or play video games because you can just let things come into your eyes or achieve artificial success in a digital world. That’s all infinitely easier than taking an honest look at your life and actually working/thinking through the things you’re going through. Maybe they’re the big questions of life like what you’re here for or if there is a God or why should you care about anything. Maybe you are in a bad relationship or work situation or having financial troubles. There are any number of things that are hard and painful to think about. Yes, they will actually take some effort to work through, and you might not be able to handle it on your own. You might have to get a friend to come along side you and help. These things are hard, but are so much better than simply trying to block them out, ignore them, or escape them.
As Christians, we are called to do some pretty hard things. Things that require a lot of effort and that don’t come easy to most of us.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8
“but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” – Psalm 1:2
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” – Joshua 1:8a
“pray without ceasing” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” – Psalm 119:9-16
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – John 14:15
These are just a few of the things we are to do. But these are also how we live fulfilled lives. Entertainment is fine, and escape can be fine, but when it becomes necessary or habitual, it can become dangerous quickly. In fact, if we are doing those things instead of doing the things mentioned above, they become idolatry. God is big enough for our problems and our life situations. He has given us a book containing all we need, and we live in an age where we have access to thousands of men and women of the faith past and present to draw from. Escapism isn’t the answer. Escapism won’t make things better or make problems disappear. The gospel is the answer.