A few weeks ago my wife and I had a dinner party with a group of young people, most of whom were striving for a place in LA’s fabled entertainment business. As the food was served the conversation veered from networking to politics, then to the TV shows we’d watched as kids, and finally we landed for the longest time on the Internet and the effect it was having on our lives. At one point, one of the couples looked at each other as if to say, “Should we actually admit to this next thing?”
As it turns out, they had both spent a considerable amount of time — and here I strive for the best word — playing/interacting/transfixed with an app called Kim Kardashian, Hollywood. The description of which is on iTunes, and there’s no way I can do a better job of explaining it then they can: Join KIM KARDASHIAN on a red carpet adventure in Kim Kardashian: Hollywood! Create your own aspiring celebrity and rise to fame and fortune!
Simmone, the less-apologetic member of the couple, started telling us how it works. As I understood it, you travel with Kim as she shops for clothing, has lunch dates with her famous friends and goes clubbing at night with other A-listers at Hollywood’s most exclusive nightspots. All this I’m told takes place on the screen of her iPhone. Imagine, a virtual world where you can pass the day away side by side with your new best friend Kim Kardashian and her pals! It makes a certain sense I suppose. When the struggles of the real world become too great and when the bitter tang of anonymity sneaks up on you, you can push a few buttons and become someone bigger than yourself for a while. It’s pure, clean escapist fantasy. But here’s where it gets messy.
You follow Kim into her favorite store as she tries on a new dress. She invites you to try one on as well. She purrs, “Wow that dress looks amazing on you, you should buy it. I’m going to buy two!” You know that Kim’s dress goes for $1,500 and you can’t afford that, but lo and behold, your dress is only $5.99, a real bargain, and so you buy two as well. You’ve already used your credit card to set up an account. That makes shopping so easy!
Now you go with Kim to another store, and you buy yourself some jeans and perhaps you pick up a pair for your friend. At $2.99 a pair it’s an amazing deal. You keep your phone on all day to see where Kim is going this evening. It’s a really exclusive club. You can’t believe they let you in, (of course you’re with Kim and so it’s not really a surprise). There’s a cover charge of $1.50 and you laugh because it’s so cheap and you buy some drinks for yourself and your friends, all for just $3.00. Everyone’s having a great time. You’re feeling gregarious and then it gets late and you’re tired and you suddenly realize that you don’t need a cab to drive you home (even though, you’ve had a few drinks) because guess what? You’re already in bed, with your sore and sleepy eyes. No surprise your peepers hurt: You’ve been staring at your phone for the last five hours!
Simmone figures that she’s spent around $600 on the app. And as she tells us this I can’t help but thinking that she’s really stupid for having spent this much money and God knows how much time living out a life on the four-inch screen of her iPhone. That is, until I did some thinking about my own life.
While it’s fair to say I don’t live my life out on a four-inch screen, I do believe that at times I have created an equally small frame for myself. Whenever I’m engaged in thinking about the world in quantitative terms, such as how much money I’m making, how I’m doing compared to my peers, or otherwise bemoaning what it is I’m lacking, I have fallen into a worldview that is in effect, not dissimilar from the one I might have if I were playing with that app.
By living a quantitative life, in other words, one that is comprised of assessments about what we have, as opposed to what we are, we will find ourselves in a world that is as blind as the one in Simmone’s app: blind to the needs of those around us, blind to our life’s purpose, and blind to beauty and simple truth. I will continue to ask myself if I’m actually present in my life or merely: “Joining KIM KARDASHIAN on a red carpet adventure in Kim Kardashian’s: Hollywood!”