Get high off the real world. As high as you want. That’s the cure.
“Wait, what’s the addiction?”
“That’s an addiction?”
Yes, it is.
“I didn’t even know I had a problem with that.”
Well, is your Instagram feed a carefully curated collection of typographically inspiring messages Photoshopped to snapshots of epic moments on mountains? Is your Spotify playlist a loop of do-gooder dub step? Do you ingest meme after meme, 3 minute video after 3 minute video, of compact motivational wisdom to get your daily idealism fix? Are you so jacked up after all that inspiration that you wondered where the hell the day went and you hadn’t accomplished a damn thing?
Then you might just be an addict.
“How is this a problem, cynical asshole?”
In truth, I am an incorrigible idealist. I am also guilty of wasting oodles of time getting high on happy thoughts and building up grandiose dreams in my head of all that I can accomplish in my short time here on earth. I’m a social entrepreneur, novelist, poet, world traveler blah blah the list goes on and on . . . and like a typical member of our generation, all these self-proclaimed titles take time, lots of time, to actually earn the right of claiming them. So the big problem, one that plagues many of us, is that this “digital idealism drug” keeps us on the saving-the-world feeding tube that can actually hurt our ability to act in the real world and create sincere change.
You’ve spent a year bouncing back and forth from one beautiful project to the next, but they are all half-complete and perpetually on the back burner, yet you feel totally okay with it because your Instagram feed, like a supportive grandma, makes you feel good about being a part of that noble community of triers. No reason to feel bad about yourself, of course, I greatly respect those that try, but what if you actually cut out most of that internet idealism diet and devote that time to just completing one or two projects? Maybe you’d get more done? I suspect so.
My concern is that these heavy doses of internet inspiration are keeping a generation plugged into the “idea of idealism” and not the difficult practice of trying, failing, and completing the hard work it takes to actually make a meaningful impact on the world. We might be on the verge of overdose that might potentially leave an entire generation as cynical as their predecessors once they come down from the digital cloud that fits nicely on a smart phone and wake up to the wreckage of half-assed dreams. We are potentially creating a graphically appealing fantasy world that often glosses over, over-simplifies, or over-glorifies the difficult lives, decisions, and morally grey-areas of real change makers that don’t fit into an easily digestible sensory-abundant package. We are cutting our drugs with synthetic substitutes, not the real homegrown shit.
So what’s the cure? The first sentence says it all: get high off doing and acting in the real world. Take some time out of your week to get a little Internet buzz to recharge your spirit for the rugged climb in the real, but don’t escape too deeply into its warm and fuzzy clutches, because you might dream so long you’ll wake up to a harsh reality. If we can do this, more get’s done, more is learned through trial and error, and we can truly claim the titles of world changers we so desperately seek.