As a passionate movie goer I consider myself more than lucky. When I first started going to the movies I had the honor of watching movies in 600 plus seat houses, and often at capacity, it was nothing short of wondrous. There were lines out the door of the theater. People lined up often one hour to a half hour before the show. There was a sense of excitement. People where anxious to get into their seats and begin watching the movie.
The downtown movie palaces were still in operation. When I first saw Raiders of The Lost Ark, I saw it in a packed 1300 seat house. It had a balcony and two concession stands. The projector had yet to be converted to a platter system. A highly skilled union projectionist operated two Simplex projectors. I was always waiting to see the donut come up in the upper right hand side. I would listen for the ting of the bell….and watched as the projectionist expertly moved from one reel to the other.
When the theater was filled, the spirit and tone of the screening was amazing. The sweet smell of popcorn floated after through the air. The floor’s stickiness betrayed the spilling of Coca Cola and the rattle of theater candy was almost symphonic almost acting as an overture prior to the movie. At most we saw four trailers and were not inundated with crass theater ads. When the feature presentation began to show a respectful silence descended on the audience. If someone dared to speak they were quickly silenced by the surrounding audience.
It was an event; it was more art than process, it was an escape from the cares of everyday life and I miss it deeply.
We have a problem in the world today. A problem which is deeply affecting the tradition of movie going. The problem is that due to technologies people worldwide are becoming more self centered over time. Collectivistic people and societies tend to be more communal and family-oriented, and tend to work together instead of independently. Couple this with research that shows our society in a deep rise of narcissism. People are rapidly becoming more isolated and focused on themselves, and are starting to ignore the need for others in their lives.
Social media, which claims to connects us to others, may actually lead to greater self-centeredness as people strive to make themselves and their opinions known. Much of social media is solely all about “me” and nothing else. Parents that buzz in and out of their children’s lives also are creating greater narcissism by feeding them buckets of emotional treacle Finally, any society that has a place for the Kardashians give testament for the rocket like rise of self-centeredness.
“What used to be thought of as narcissistic, vain, and self-centered behavior is now the guiding norm of society,” says Elias Aboujaoude, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University “We’re living in an era where humans are putting forth these edited and inflated versions of their lives, this ‘idealized self,’ and then they are, quite literally, falling in love with themselves.”
What is interesting is that society’s focus on the internet has given rise to what is now called.social media anxiety disorder. This is a mental health condition that is similar to social anxiety disorder. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders in the United States. It seems that the more reliance we have on technology, the more stressed and depressed we become.
Overall, about 30% of those who use social media spend more than 15 hours per week online. Spending 15 hours a week telling the world how great you are is just plain silly.
Community is a basic human need. It is necessary as in food, shelter and air. Having a sense of belonging is a common experience among our species Belonging means acceptance as a member or part. Such a simple word for huge concept. A sense of belonging is a human experience vital for happiness and growth.. Feeling that you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with intensely painful emotions. Some find belonging in a church, some with friends, some with family, and some on Twitter or other social media. Some see themselves as connected only to one or two people.
Others believe and feel a connection to all people the world over, to humanity. Some struggle to find a sense of belonging and their loneliness can end up being physically painful for them. Some seek belonging through excluding others. That reflects the idea that there must be those who a sense of belonging to a greater community improves your motivation, health, and happiness. When you see your connection to others, you know that all people struggle and have difficult times. You are not alone. There is comfort in that knowledge.
Sense of community is a concept in psychology, social psychology, and social work. That concept simply states that in order to define yourself, you first must define the community you belong to. Social Media and the internet has un-tethered tens of million people from the idea of a true community. Many pages or groups on services like Facebook claim community but what ever it is …it is false.
One of the foundation of movie going was the ability to take tens of millions of strangers from strange lands and introduce them to their country America. Movie going built the first communities for these immigrants and shaped their opinion of this new world they were living in. But the comfort these newcomers took from sitting in a darkened room and sharing a collective experience must have provide such a great diversion from the loneliness that must have gripped them. The movies made America and the movies made Americans. The movies reflected a collective will and need. Sometimes in the movies like Gentlemen’s Agreement or in the movies of Frank Capra, some of the questions were answered.
The danger of letting movie going erode is the same danger as letting the collective experience erode. People become distant, self involved and lonely. Because as many who went to the movies seeking answers a immigrants, there is one true formula for perpetuating sadness and loneliness…..think about yourself.
Walk away from facebook, stop tweeting, let go of instagram……go to the movies…..see some people. People are fabulous.