Everything Has Gotten Too Damn Loud
Loribeth had a post about Elf on a Shelf that I featured in the Roundup, lamenting how intense celebrating Christmas has gotten lately. She writes, “But these days, it seems the pressure to do more, buy more, give more gifts — on top of all the other pressures of modern life and parenting – just keep ratcheting upward.” And while I’ve definitely noticed it with Christmas and I don’t even celebrate the holiday (starting with Christmas decorations up in October, continuing with the onslaught of Christmas programming and commercials going through January, and blowing this non-Christian’s mind with the idea that $224 is a small amount to spend on Christmas gifts for a single person), it feels as if it’s true with everything.
Meals are no longer food to enjoy in the moment or sustain our bodies. They are photographic evidence of the deliciousness that went in our mouths (extra points if it looks amazing and complicated). Don’t even bother cooking or ordering something that may taste great but doesn’t photograph well. Decorations are no longer decorations; they are a statement of how much time we are willing to caress our hot glue guns. Halloween costumes are over the top, Valentines go beyond the little paper card, and birthday cakes for three-year-olds are taking on the proportions, cost, and complications of wedding cakes.
I can rarely find simple recipes on food blogs anymore. Instead I find posts with 25 images, each artfully taken, photoshopped, and cropped to walk you through how to chop up tomatoes for bruschetta. Fine, the image tutorials help if you’re making something unusual and complicated such as… let’s say… turducken. But scrolling through image after image of putting together a salad just because images are pretty and pinnable and we feel as if there must be pictures to keep up with the blogging Joneses? That goes over my gratuitous/warranted line.
Here’s the thing: it’s all pretty to look at, but the volume has gotten way too loud. It’s like when you go to hear your favourite band play, and at first you’re enjoying yourself. But after a few songs, you realize that the volume is up so high that it isn’t fun anymore. It hurts your ears to listen to your favourite band, and even though you’ve been looking forward to the concert for weeks, you’d sort of rather be curled up in bed than having your ears assaulted.
I think what Loribeth is seeing with Christmas is an offshoot of what we’ve been seeing all year due to social media. You’re not just outdoing yourself or your neighbours for the holidays. You’re now feeling the pressure from Pinterest and blogs and your Facebook feed. You’re hearing tons of interesting ideas and want to try them out yourself (and that’s a good thing), but it’s also a feeling that you’re not doing “enough” for the holidays if you’re not doing it all (which is a bad thing).
After all, if that person can manage a nativity scene made out of Rice Krispies treats that she artfully carved alongside her beaming children with a hotly buttered knife, what does it say about how much you love your child if you don’t attempt to make a little, baby Rice Krispies Jesus on a bed of crumbled Chex? Don’t you love Christmas enough to attempt cereal craft projects?
The same goes for the machine that is generating all this holiday angst: social media itself. How many people have felt that their blog isn’t “good enough” when they hear opportunities others get or their traffic or see their pretty blog design? How many people have felt that they must be doing something wrong if someone starts a Twitter account and instantly has 1000 followers while your three-year-old account still only has 67?
I certainly have gotten the sense that I’m not doing my friendships correctly when I see everyone else having fun on Facebook, and I do think about how I’m contributing to other people’s feelings when I post my own grinning face while out for the evening.
I’m not suggesting that we throw out the baby with the bathwater and get rid of social media, or even that people stop posting their pistachio flower tutorials and clever gender reveal cakes. But I do think it helps to bring it into perspective when we think about how a bigness has taken over. That too many people are trying to strive for quality and quantity at the same time, which is possible to achieve, but always at a cost. I’m not willing to give up Facebook, even though it makes me feel like shit half the time when I see what I’ve either been left out of or missed. Because there is always that other half of the time when I feel close to people far away, figuratively part of more people’s worlds than I ever could conceivably be without social media.
But I do need to complain about the volume just as I would if I were at that concert. (And yes, I am that patron at the movie theater who asks the projectionist to turn down the sound when the special effects are making my bones shake from the noise.) On the off-chance that someone will turn it down a notch or at least commiserate to let me know I’m not the only person who thinks that everything has gotten too damn loud.