Saturday, June 6, 2015

Living Other People’s Lives

This post has been bubbling up in me for a while now, the phrase roiling around in my head picking up lint as I decided what the benefits and downsides were of living other people lives. 

What do I mean by that? Well, as a society we spend enormous amounts of time watching television, movies and reading, all of which immerse us in the doings of characters, either real or fictional. It must be a powerful pull, this desire to observe human beings in their best, worst and everyday modes of behavior because I personally don’t know a single person who doesn’t do one of these things. It might be necessary to visit a monastery to find one. What keeps us watching or reading? (By the way, there is no good synonym for reading. Interesting.)

An easy explanation would be that we are looking for a connection with the individuals; perhaps a metaphor within their lives to our own. But surely not with reality TV stars, with their outlandish antics, and yet there’s a huge following for that sort of thing. 

“Come on, Kathy,” I can hear you saying, “it’s just entertainment.” Maybe that's true too. Escape. Still, you have to wonder why viewing others in the midst of agonizing situations, or sometimes ridiculous ones, would serve to relax or even stimulate us. 

I’m sure there’s a study or two on why we watch television or go to the movies. Maybe there’s one on why some people prefer reading over a filmed diversion. I’m just questioning why being inside another’s life is so alluring an alternative to living our own lives. 

I’m just as guilty as the next person of frittering away the hours, with a book in my hand or a DVD in the player. (I gave up actual TV years ago because I recognized I was addicted.) I’m just wondering if I took just 25% of that time and spent it outdoors, or in a museum, or volunteering at the local food bank, if I wouldn’t be a richer person.  That would be living my own life rather than that of actual or imagined folks.

What do you think?


  1. I think that it is escapism. The opportunity to venture away from the hum-drum of daily living to venture into a whole new world. That is why I like to read and watch movies. I can get away for just a little while from the "noise" in my own life. Sometimes the voyeur in me comes to join in my escapes but mostly it is just about taking a break from the real world.


    1. I love that phrase - "the noise in my own life". So telling. Yes, I think you're right. For me, I wonder if the escapism is purely laziness. In fact, I suspect so. I don't love that idea.

      I do LOVE hearing from you, however. You always have an interesting look at things.