Five Ways Vicarious Living Betrays Us


            Winter might be the logical season when, in general tiredness or failing health, folks lumber off the playing field of life to watch from the sidelines. Some might figure “we’ve had our chance”, and now, self-benched or life-benched, see little else to do but watch.

          Yes, winter souls may have an understandable reason. But why do the young, the 24 to 54 year-old crowd, seem to be leaving the field for the locker room by the hoards? Why, in the bloom of Summer and majesty of Fall, do they see other folks’ lives as more fulfilling?

     We’ve always read. Books (C.S. Lewis) show us “we’re not alone.” True stories of real people with rich adventure have much to teach us. Life, in concise slices of reality, comes alive in the ink of good novelists. Their books not only entertain, they challenge our thinking. Yet, in a choice devoid of logic, our present culture thrives on media’s voluminous offerings of free junk food. Life gets tough, so we escape, well, because we can.

vi-car-i-ous: adjective, “experienced or felt by watching, hearing about, or reading about someone else rather than by doing something yourself.” (Google)

    Many forms and genre of media have risen past the level of simple distraction, almost to the level of addiction. Earbuds, phones, screens of every size. They can all mesmerize. We damage ourselves slowly, lazily, craving the junk food our senses have come to love. The long-term results may be up for grabs, but the short-term tragedy is simple.

            Vicarious living cheats us out of the life we could be living.

                                              Here’s My Countdown

  1.  Over-promising and under-delivering, advertisers give us vicarious everything.  

       How they keep us salivating! Even the toughest of us crack for a commercial. We laugh, we cry, we drop our jaws in fascination. Those pictures in High Definition of the dishes from Red Lobster get me every time. My DVR races through unwanted ads, but unless I look away, I find myself rewinding, just to catch what I saw in millisecond snippets of the fast forward.

      Ads have less than three seconds to move us. The mood, the glory, the glitter, the lust must grab us instantly. The “people” must make us crave what they have–believe their stuff will give us confidence, humor, beauty, sexiness, and happiness.

  1. Social Media: To be (vicariously) cool, Post and Scroll!


    We love to scroll, scroll, scroll. I have nothing against this robber of my time. I do want to keep up with nieces and nephews far away, and I hate that’s pretty much the only way we communicate…

    Which brings me to what gets us the most. It’s the pictures and videos with people – especially people we “kinda know.” Even when the truth stares us in the face – that her life is normal, much like mine – I still get caught up in her life. The one I perceive she has. She’s somehow different, more together. I wish I could go where she goes, have the wonderful vacations she has. That family looks so happy and relaxed by that beautiful water.

    We don’t stop there. We go beyond the colorful narrative in front of us. We add our own internal narrative. We see them in our mind’s eye as financially well-off and enjoying smooth relationships with their kids and parents. They have perfectly delightful children. Even when they do something naughty, it’s funny and cute. We want to hear about it. Cleaning red lipstick off white bathroom walls seems somehow more palatable in her life.

  1. Through our Kids… we vicariously live our dreams.

       Our real kids. Everyone knows at least one Little League dad, frantic on the sidelines, fulfilling his dream to be a baseball player. But what about moms? What transports us? Do the springtime fresh cheeks of our kids bring out longings from our pasts – hopes never fulfilled, talents never explored? Surely their lives will be better than ours.

    We go to a different place through their sports events, their musical and academic accomplishments–and also through their clothes, dating drama, and beauty. We give them more stuff than we got when we were small. But what’s just as important? The documenting of it all on social media. It’s our little history, yes. And we should be proud of them when they do well. But all the attention can fill a different void in us.

  1. Vicarious confidence from movie stars and their characters who ALWAYs say the right thing…

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       They are so doggone quotable! Actually no one always knows the right thing to say. Of course, screenwriters take hours, weeks, even months to construct conflict, solution, and the happy or tragic ending. While watching an actor be someone else, we ache with their character and, in comparison, consider our pain more manageable. Their impossible situations replay later as we do dishes or sit in the car as it goes through the car wash. What will happen to so-and-so next? Watching them figure it out replaces our feelings of ineptness and loneliness, if only for a short forty minutes.

    As much as any movie or TV show, tidbits about the actor’s personal lives spellbind us. There are hundreds of reality shows, interview specials, and documentaries about media. I never really wondered before, but now that you’re telling me, I like knowing what toothpaste Angelina Jolie uses. While we’re on the subject, what does she eat for supper? What’s her favorite anything– TV shows, pets, vacation spots?

    Transfixed and transported into the lives they permit us to see, we imagine what it would be like to be them. And it must be more exciting by far than to be me.

  1. Vicarious love through movie scenes and novels increase self-doubt, tell us our love life lacks.


       Millennials aren’t the only ones with a sweet tooth for vicarious romance. With hormones waning, we autumn women can find ourselves too tired to make a relationship work, too distracted to pause and look at our mate with fondness and admiration. So much water under the bridge, we let the relationship drift. We miss the old days of sweet romance. We begin to think it’s gone forever.

    Have men and women of all ages given up on real, live, love affairs? The kind that last for over three months? Why not give up, when living an engaged life is excruciatingly tough? And can so easily feel unsatisfying. Brief trysts are way easier, but we would never…

   The complications of my life trump the effort it takes to water and grow the seed of intimacy planted at the beginning of a relationship. Monogamy poses a problem these days. It doesn’t work on autopilot. So, as monogamy goes out of style, the pseudolife of variety and creativity splashes tiny tastes of saccharine intimacy into our lives. The sensations received through the tiny screen work just great, and without the hassle.

     So why not go for your phone? When you watch, you don’t have to shower, be well-groomed, or polite, or young, or funny, or smart, or athletic, or self-controlled. The screen doesn’t care.

   Statistics show that only 30% of marrieds in America make love once a week. It seems that once that benchmark goes out the window, passion’s spark goes out too, and many marrieds of all ages report sexual activity only once a month. A romance novel, movie, or phone fills the void, but not without a literal disconnection from the mate on several critical levels.

     What do you think? Do relationships seem harder to maintain than ever? Do you think Christians secretly live in the cyber world of false intimacy? If the older folks are giving up something they once knew, are young folks learning any better how to live in real relationships? What is the solution? What do you think we can do to live a real life in our own families? In the next posts I hope to present some solutions. Stay tuned…

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