11/16/2011 12:29 pm ET | Updated Jan 16, 2012

Life Is Not a Popularity Contest!


In the USA where being "likable" is valued perhaps more than in any other place world-wide, social media has unfortunately escalated this phenomena.

From the formative years, when pre-school and kindergarten actually grade one on how "socialable" they are, going forward to a culture riddled with beauty pageants and competitive trivia, the sad consequence is the devaluing of truly important qualities -- honesty, integrity, kindness, love, empathy, sensitivity, vital work, creativity, ingenuity, generosity, and courage...

In fact, if one examines those very luminaries, which we as a culture hold in the most high-esteem, be it a Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Einstein, Salk, Mozart, Beethoven, Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Close, Stern, Jobs, Gates, King or Steinham -- popularity in never the raison d'etre.

Neither greatness nor great deeds are predicated on "popularity." Those who think out-of-that-box or challenge existing notions (Jesus, Galileo, the Kennedys...) regularly have met with disastrous consequences, but in time have transcended from the once reviled to the revered.

Quantity has all-too-often replaced quality! We have proven to be a nation of hoarders!

When one amasses -- in endless hoarding -- or its more acceptable counterpart, "collecting," the attraction frequently has to do with the sheer numbers of objects rather than their intrinsic excellence. I remember back when a well-intended pal decided I must collect something and so began purchasing perfume bottles for moi, to get me started. I didn't. It is
"consuming" enough being the caretaker of all the art I have created during my prolific career, as well as that I have inherited.

Today most social media, led by the admittedly brilliant development of Facebook, be it a LinkedIn or one of the innumerable spin-offs, similarly rely on amassing -- "friends." Implied is that whomever garners the most "friends," wins!

But who are those supposed "friends?" And why does the name of the invitees to join them in social media "friendship" too regularly sport an unrecognizable name. Most curiously, what does this really signify?

Recently Mark Zuckerberg (the founder of Facebook) stated that this year Facebook would have one billion participants -- most of whom spend endless daily hours enlisting the membership of what I label "faux friends"(FFs). This process necessitates one staring at a computer ad infinitum, instead of truly being with another -- breaking bread and sharing a cozy meal, toasting champagne in mutual celebration, lounging about while discussing matters into the wee hours, or giggling together while playing ping-pong...

Everyone is so very busy, scheduling so darn difficult, I barely can create time/space to share with my "true "friends" in-the-flesh. But when I have a choice, I will I always opt for this full human connection.

The great irony is that although we are now supposedly more "connected" than ever -- through telephone, television, mobile devices, iPhones, iPads, Macs, computers -- we have simultaneously become increasing isolated -- desperately "alone."

Moi: admittedly a techno Fan... the first woman noted to use computers for photography way back in the mid-1970s. I herald the indisputable democratization of access to information through new technology and the immediacy of info-flow.

Yet I hear the wise words of the late, Marshall McLuhan's replay: "The medium is the message (& also the massage)!" Staring into a computer -- even if it is my fabulous Mac, is ultimately a cold endeavor -- supposedly offering limitless possibilities, but ultimately also limiting.

Everytime I experience a human-being choosing a tech device instead of a real human being -- whether surreptitiously texting beneath a dinner or conference table, walking the street, plugged in, eyes downcast focused on the narrow view of mobile phones. Instead of experiencing the interplay of "being here now" -- interacting with the environment, the glory of nature, one's' sister/brother inhabitants and fine furry four-leggeds -- I am wary.

A dear Brazilian friend inspired the title for this editorial "Life Is Not a Popularity Contest." Although she is a successful, world-class sculptor doing vital environmental work, and a wonderful "giver," she has always also been a people-placater.

Traditionally, all of us femmes have typically been raised -- to one degree or another -- to be people-pleasing submissives. I have found this particularly accentuated in the case of well-bred Latinas.

On one occasion, my friend was describing her difficulties in managing a relationship in which she was clearly being "used." Her concerns about dealing with the situation directly, centered on her fear of offending. Having heard variations on this tale for years, I exclaimed spontaneously, "Dear "Name", life is not a popularity constest!"

Reiterating, underlining, emphatically, "Life is not a popularity contest! Au contraire!"

I believe one does well to unearth their most important God-granted gifts, to use them well, demanding excellence from oneself, always doing your BEST! Dare to be GREAT! Summon Courage and follow your own very special Guidance! Care not what the secretly envious may whisper, or the cowardly, may gossip. Be a light!

Those who are truly supposed to be with you, will come -- and possibly, stay. Real, not ":Faux Friends"! As for the vague masses...

One may care about them, even care for them, but most strategically, care-not what they mumble or say.


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Photographs © Jill Lynne