If the internet has taught me anything, since the days of AOL and that screeching old dial-up modem sound, it’s that there’s very little you can trust on-line. Unscrupulous individuals among the human race have certainly done their best to disrupt the fabric of harmony and the beacon of hope that we all thought the Internet would be. I’m not just speaking of the spammers or the e-mail Princes looking for your bank information to send you millions of dollars. I’m talking about motivational Memes.
The motivational meme is quite possible the most dangerous of all Internet damnations. I’m specifically speaking of those picturesque scenes of setting suns over golden meadows, or crisp and clean waterfalls cascading over green leafy waterfalls, or some picture of a dirt or paved road leading off toward the horizon. These memes are dangerous. Not for their photographic content of course, but for the often completely ill-conceived motivational message they contain, usually written in some beautiful script or bold, unignorably cheery letterhead.
These are a trap because the majority of them contain nothing but terrible life advice. One sided, empty, misdirected life advice about friends or lovers or family or returning favors, or Panda love. Well, the Panda love ones might be alright. But the rest are often complete hooey.
Here’s my reasoning, I saw one of these memes yesterday that went something like this (I’m paraphrasing a bit) “Some friends are like shadows and are only visible during the bright times, but real friends are still with you in the dark.” I know what it intends to mean but it fails miserably at actually conveying its message. Plus, it’s completely untrue. Friendship is complex and often difficult to sustain even in the best of circumstances, but the eventuality and reality is, even your closest and best friends on occasion WILL LET YOU DOWN. It’s not a permanent thing. Everyone at some point or another let’s someone they care about down. It’s just life. So those friends that “disappear” in the dark times, well, they’re still there, they just have their own lives going on or their own deeply rooted psychological issues to deal with that might, just might, take priority over your issues. Friendship, in my opinion, is not predicated on the idea of who is there for me when I’m down, but rather, who understands when I’m down and doesn’t judge me for being so. That’s friendship, in the bright or the dark.
There was another one that sort of gets me annoyed; it goes something like (again paraphrasing) “There’s no reason to look back on the road you’ve been on, just keep moving forward.” That’s utter rubbish. Sure, we should keep our eye focused on what’s ahead and not wallow in the mistakes of the past, but it’s important to remember where we’ve been. Just walking blindly forward endlessly without having a sense or knowledge of the past means you haven’t learned anything. If you don’t have a sense of where you’ve been, a sense of what those experiences taught you, even if they were bad or embarrassing or things you regret, then they have played an important part in your journey and should not be ignored or simply forgotten for the sake of forward movement.
I also really hate the ones that go like “What you are afraid to do is a clear indicator of the next thing you need to do.” Not because the message is false or inaccurate, but because it sounds like something the very elite would say. Sometimes the reason we can’t do something isn’t because we’re afraid, it’s really because we do not have the means. It’s almost like saying, “If you wish hard enough, it’ll happen.” I’m not afraid of success so what you’re saying is, I don’t have to do that next. (Ok. Cool. I won’t. Whew! Big relief there.) I think it sends a mixed message rather than one that says, “Hey, try. It might work out. It might not, but at least you tried.” That seems somehow more direct and honest to me than, “Don’t be a chicken, go jump out of a $50,000 airplane cause it scares you, buddy.”
I think what we really should take away from these scary internet motivational memes is that there are no quick fix phrases for any situation in life and to read these things with a grain of salt. Life is never just black and white, people aren’t always bad or always good, and real wisdom comes from thinking for yourself and coming to the conclusions that best suit your specific situation. It’s important to maintain a little perspective on these things and remember how complex life is and that no one phrase is the turnkey to happiness or spiritual peace. Except for those Panda love memes, those will change your life.