Why I Love Netflix, Video Games, Books, and Tinder (But Hate My Life)
By David Metcalfe
September 28, 2018
It’s Hard To Get A Good Night’s Sleep in Gethsemane
The Gospel of Mark, towards the end of the 14th chapter, says,
“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Simon,’ he said to Peter, ‘are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.”
I have found a new appreciation for this passage, as I’ve seen it play out more in my own life recently. Although, of course, I don’t mean to consider my anguish equal to that of Jesus’, because I’m not facing that level of severity, thankfully.
I have a lot of trouble sleeping sometimes, because I hate what I have to face when I wake up. I don’t like my life, I don’t like myself, and I don’t like the world I live in. I toss and turn as I think about having to wake up early to work in a dusty, grey warehouse, where I have to carry boxes back and forth for 6 hours. I think about how lonely I am. I think about my receding hair line. I think about how Christianity probably isn’t true, but how much I wish it was. I think about checking my bank account, but realize how stressed it would make me, so I never check it.
2 am thoughts of David: “I shouldn’t go into work tomorrow. It’s absolutely absurd that someone of my intelligence should have to do such mindless work. I can’t handle another 6 hours straight of it. But I’m literally going to be homeless if I don’t work. It sucks SO much.
Fahrenheit 11/9 seems like an interesting movie. I wouldn’t mind hearing Michael Moore rant about his over-the-top disdain for Donald Trump. Oh wait, I just remembered I have literally no friends to see it with. God damn it, all my friends are too stupid to follow politics, let alone appreciate or understand commentary on it. Why do I bother reading The New Yorker, Maclean’s, and The Economist if I have no one around to talk about it with? That old hypothetical question of the tree falling in the forest, and whether or not it makes a sound if no one is around to hear it…that’s my life.
I’ll check Facebook. Maybe someone commented on or liked one of my many posts. Oh, there’s one notification: it’s Jared Landson’s birthday? Who the hell is Jared Landson? I honestly do not remember meeting that guy or accepting a friend request from him. Crap, it appears my last three posts got no comments or likes. But I post the same quality of content as Bill Maher and Bernie Sanders, and they get like 10,000 likes every post. Let’s see what’s in the news feed: oh great, a bunch of happy people celebrating their romantic relationships. Oh god, that depresses me. Why hasn’t romance ever worked out for me?
I’ll check Tinder; that’ll make me feel wanted. Oh, five new matches. Dang, all of them suck. Well, actually this one is really attractive, oh wait, too attractive, it’s probably an ad for an adult website. No bio on her profile…yeah, that’s definitely fake. I have no interest in dating any of these girls I matched with. We have nothing in common and they appear fairly low class. But maybe I should have sex with one of them. Would that make me feel less lonely? Or, at least, better about my life in some way?”
And these are just the most basic things that keep me up at night. I didn’t even get into all of my grandiose philosophical and social problems, like how to create world peace, figuring out why people like Donald Trump, or whether objective truth can ever be arrived at. Much like Jesus staying up all night in anguish, I sometimes feel a painful stress about wishing things could be different. And just as his friends are incapable of helping him, so are mine. There are some people in my life who really want to help, but it’s just more than anyone can bear. Can you imagine going for coffee with me and trying to solve not only all my personal problems, but all the world’s problems that I seem to take upon myself? No one is up to that task. I just smile and say that everything in my life is fine. I’ll introduce small, solvable problems here and there, but honestly, I’m just happy to have someone to chat with at all.
Eating Alone: The Worst Thing In The World
I do not like working at warehouses or Uber, but I am actually ok with it as long as I have something to look forward to at the end of the day. But that is very, very rare that I ever have something to look forward to. The worst part of my day is coming home to an empty house. No one asks me how my day was, there’s no food waiting for me, there’s nothing fun happening. I boil some rice in a pot. I grill some pork on the stove. I wait there in silence. After it’s done, I sit down at the table and begin eating. There’s no dinner conversation. No one asks to pass the salt or tells a strange story about their day.
There’s a tired, lonely young man waiting to finish his food so he can do the dishes. On the outside: stoic. On the inside: dying.
Where Did The Mormons and Old Friends Go?
In theory, my return to Edmonton was supposed to be one of great accomplishment. I had been “there and back again”; gained so much knowledge, so many experiences, grew so much as a person. The Mormons in Kingston had been a pinnacle of community. I was invited to their houses, given rides, and had great conversations at institute class and random coffee shops. They invited me for dinner, drove me to Toronto and paid for my hotel room, and displayed incredible morality and spiritual devotion. But most importantly, I felt authentic friendship. Joining their church was an intellectual and spiritual quest, that I was, in many ways, not 100% sure of. But one thing I did know is that there was something special about these people. If Jesus was real, and really did come into people’s hearts, he was in the hearts of the Mormon people.
I had changed so much through my travels in US and experiences with the people at Axis. I had solved my life problems and become very moral, very intelligent, and very social. This new David was ready to reclaim Edmonton. With all his old friends ready to see him, and all his new potential friends waiting for him at the Mormon church, it was sure to be an amazing summer. I was arriving a couple weeks after my birthday, so I thought I might throw a birthday/homecoming party and invite all my friends. But my best friends, that I had known for years and spent incredible amounts of time with, were busy. They were willing to come to my party, if it worked for their schedule. I was an inconvenience to them; an interruption to their lives. The party never happened.
At the Mormon church, I was very optimistic that things were going to be like they were in Kingston. But I was completely unimpressed. If Jesus was real and worked in people’s lives, he was not there. The church members lived for money, career and status. The church was a social group through which to find a dating partner and surface friendships. They talked about spiritual things, not as a discovery of self and truth, but as an organized obligation…like they were taking a class. Their conversations were boring and didn’t reach past the surface. Not to say everyone is like that necessarily, but that’s the general sentiment I felt.
I liked hanging out with the missionaries. They don’t realize how valuable they’ve been in my life. They think their value was in teaching me the gospel, but that’s not true. I could learn Mormon theology from a textbook. The gospel is just a theoretical, meaningless concept. Oh, some carpenter got killed and now my sins are forgiven…? I don’t care. If the gospel is to matter at all, it needs to manifest itself in real, tangible ways.
When a weird, overly philosophical guy with no meaningful relationships in his life moved to Kingston to run away from his problems, the gospel became manifest in the hearts of those missionaries as they spent time developing relationship with him. The gospel became manifest when he prayed for the first time in months and asked God to lead his life.
But missionaries go home, and they become boring social club members (aka church members). They live thousands of miles away, and obviously have separate lives to live. The remaining missionaries don’t care about already existing church members. They exist to bring people into the church, not develop them once they’re in. They cast that responsibility to the church. You’re supposed to make friends at FHE, learn about the gospel at institute, and develop faith at the Sunday service.
But I don’t like that stuff. The kinds of boring, surface conversations and social processes at FHE…they suck. The cold, impersonal, authoritarian atmosphere of institute class…it sucks. The social club, overly structured, mundanity of the three-hour church service…it sucks.
So, to answer the question of where the Mormons and old friends went: my old friends have full time jobs, wives, and hobbies, and view me as an inconvenience. The Mormon missionaries stopped ministering to me, and the ministry replacement was disenchanting.
Dave’s World: Where I (Temporarily) Escape My Problems
Since eating by myself was too depressing, I started eating in front of the television. It helped. Suddenly I was immersed with the exciting and interesting lives of television characters. I’m able to identify and empathize with them very strongly. When I watch “Family Guy”, I am Brian. When I watch “Flight of the Conchords”, I am Brett. When I watch “Comedy Bang Bang”, I am Scott Aukerman. Brian has his best friend, Stewie, and constantly goes on cool adventures. Brett has his best friend, Jermaine, and they create awesome and hilarious music together. Scott has his best friend, Reggie, and they make stupid jokes while hanging out with celebrities.
I started playing Xbox for the first time in over a year. One morning, I didn’t feel like going to church, so I played the “my career” mode on NBA 2k16. It’s literally the most obvious display of vicarious success you can think of. You create a player with your name and design them to look like you, and they inevitably become an NBA superstar. I immerse myself in it so deeply, I almost come to actually believe that I’m doing 360 slam dunks and winning championships.
But playing a video game is not enough intellectual stimulation for me, so I listen to university lectures on philosophy, sociology and history in the meantime. Hitting a game winning three while simultaneously learning the efficacy of social control theory to predict criminal behavior is one of my favorite things in the world. Because, although no actual people care, in my own little world, I’m a star athlete and a revered intellectual.
While Netflix fake solves my friendship problems and Xbox fake solves my success problems, I still have a lot of larger thought problems. These are solved by books. I have my collection of books sitting on the shelf, ready to be read at all times: “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, “The Rights of Man” by Thomas Paine, “The History of Western Philosophy” by Bertrand Russell, and a few others that I read constantly. Sometimes I go down to the bookstore in the afternoon, where I sit and read all I can before closing time.
Escaping into books is the one escapism that I do which I think does actually solve legitimate problems, and it’s actually helped me substantially with things. As long as I’m not using reading as a crutch, but rather as a step towards higher thought, I think it’s a great thing to do.
The other two (Netflix and Xbox), however, are clearly crutches. While they can be used in moderation as a casual hobby, I do not use them that way. I use them because I am trying to create friendships with people I relate to and create success in ways I never could in real life. The audio lectures, although certainly beneficial, are trying to replace my desire to do an actual master’s degree.
Tinder, obviously, is a stupid way to date. And I don’t even go on dates with these girls. I just like the affirmation it gives me to get a match, because I think to myself, “ooo a girl thinks I’m attractive.” It’s replacing the legitimate positive feeling of developing a real romantic relationship.
Any Shot At Redemption?
I don’t know, but here are some guesses I have.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “David, you idiot! You shouldn’t get a girlfriend to solve your life problems! No girl wants the role of being a savior to some loser guy, and a relationship out of desperation is never a good one!”
And yes, your point is well taken. What I’m saying, though, is that if a relationship with a young woman were to come about organically, and she was a high-quality person, it does have a lot of potential to fulfill my desire for companionship and intimacy.
Bertrand Russell said in his book, “The Conquest of Happiness”, that,
“A man who has never enjoyed beautiful things in the company of a woman whom he loved has not experienced to the full the magic power of which such things are capable.”
I’ve certainly felt this. I’ve only been really in love one time. It was almost two years ago now, so it’s weird that I still think about it, but it’s hard to forget something like that. I remember even the simplest, most mundane things being very meaningful to me when she was with me. We never did anything that exciting, but even grocery shopping or watching some movie was, I suppose, magical.
After she ended our relationship, I got very depressed and went fairly crazy. I wouldn’t stop messaging her even when she asked me to, so she blocked my number and social media. I remember telling my friends that I would never fall in love again. They thought I was being over dramatic, but I was very serious. I haven’t allowed myself to get even close to falling in love since then, and I even declared that I would remain single for my entire life.
But lately, I’ve started to think that I could get back to sincere dating with the intent of finding a wife. Not saying I necessarily will ever get married, but man, I can imagine coming home from work and having a wife to make supper with, and children to talk with about their day and whether they got their homework done. I wouldn’t sit by myself eating junk food while living vicariously through a cartoon dog. I want to experience the love and community that a family brings. I want to put away my Xbox and work hard at a job to provide for my family. I want, or maybe I need, someone to love.
We all want to produce something meaningful and be praised for it. Ironically, the first is a cause of happiness and the second is an impediment. This is because the production of meaning provides purpose, which is indispensable to one’s happiness. Seeking praise, however, is a construct of the ego, which demands more and more and never gets enough. That’s why I don’t think I should pursue work that will give me praise, but rather that I find meaningful.
I found “Axis” meaningful. That was the only job I ever truly enjoyed. I would stay after hours for no additional wage simply because I got passionate about many things. Unfortunately, I ended up leaving because my attitude conflicted with authority, but I really want to find something like that again. I love writing, speaking and travelling. And doing it all with amazing co-workers was such a dream. I honestly think back to how amazing my life was in Colorado and think, “was that even real?” I have pictures to prove it happened, fortunately.
I applied to some journalism companies for the fall. None of them hired me. The ones that did have potential offers for me were unpaid internships, and I didn’t have the money to cover living expenses for the duration of my time, so I couldn’t go. But I would actually love doing journalism if I got with the right company. Writing is the one truly amazing thing in my life.
I heard a sad story once about a tiger in a zoo that was encaged in a twenty by ten-foot space for several years. The tiger would just pace back and forth all day. Then, when they released him into the wild, he continued just pacing back and forth. He forgot how to run.
That’s how my mind feels. Everyone is trying to put it in a little cage. The Mormons say, “this is what you can believe, this is what you can’t!” Employers say, “this is what our company thinks, and you better agree!” Universities say, “this is the proper format, research methods and acceptable theories to use!”
Writing articles is when I’m able to leave my cage and start running. Sometimes, I leave the ground and start flying. What I want in life, more than anything, is to fly. If I could get paid to write, I wouldn’t have to work all these crappy odd jobs. But unfortunately, it’s hard to be able to fly and get paid for it. Most professional writers live in a cage their whole career.
Get Some Real Friends
There’s definitely potential in that. I’m a very unique individual, to say the least, so finding friends who I can relate to is not super easy. I don’t know how I’m going to even find these friends. I made some friends at the universities in Kingston and Toronto, but they were more professional. I made friends with the Mormon missionaries, but they moved away and have separate lives now. I don’t know, maybe I should show up to church and FHE and actually be social, but I’m not thinking I’m going to develop close friendships there too much. And I don’t feel like hanging out at the U of A that much. Their public lectures just don’t interest me that much most of the time. But dang it, maybe I should show up to a couple and be social.
But also, I actually do have some legitimate friends who I just forget about sometimes. Like, yes, they are kind of busy and don’t want to hang out lots, but that’s fine, because if I have 7 friends who are able to hang out once a week each, I’m covered. And then hopefully they become friends with each other as well and have group hang outs, because those are great as well.
Change My Attitude
William James, commonly held as the “Father of Psychology”, said this,
“The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.”
To a large extent, he’s right. Sometimes I realize, “wow, I have so much to be thankful for!” One random thing I noticed today is that I have nice shoes. Like, they are very comfortable and high quality, and I was like, “huh, a lot of people in the world don’t have nice shoes.”
Random thing to say, I know. But there are all kinds of random things that we can find thankfulness in. I think I’m starting to realize why Paul told the Thessalonians to “give thanks in all circumstances”. There are very few times when we cannot find at least something to be thankful for. Humans naturally have a negativity bias. We have to work to correct it by actively acknowledging the positive things in our lives. For example, I can say, “my job is terrible” or I can say, “I’m thankful to have a job so that I’m not homeless”. I can say, “no one loves me”, just because a certain girl rejects me, or I can say, “lots of people love me”, in acknowledgement of the many awesome people in my life.
Bertrand Russell said that, “the wise man thinks about his troubles only when there is some purpose in doing so; at other times he thinks about other things, or, if it is night, about nothing at all.”
So, why am I focusing so much only on my troubles? If I had left this article half completed, it would be very biased. I need to come up with solutions, but in many ways, maybe nothing at all has to change. Perhaps, things can stay the same, and I can simply shift my attitude. And obviously, I should do what I can to make things better, but obsessive worry and focus on negativity is not rational or productive.
It is also very egotistical of me to be only thinking of life in terms of me, as if I’m somehow the measure of everything. People tend to be much happier when they are devoted to an external cause; one that many people take part in as a collective unit, and one that will live beyond them.
I know what all the religious people reading this are thinking, “turn to God and He’ll solve all your problems.” It’s something that has never been sustainable for me. I’ve tried various types of Christianity, because I really do feel a sincere connection to Jesus Christ and the writings in the New Testament, but never have I felt a sustained “rightness” in it.
I knew there were problems with evangelical Christianity and Catholicism, but I thought maybe Mormonism really was the answer to that. In some ways, it does answer some of my issues with theology, but it also does have limitations. I would be 110% more likely to show up to church if we talked about real issues that matter to me. If it was more like “Announcing sacrament talk: an explanation of anachronisms in the Book of Mormon”, or “A critical examination of God’s justice in the Old Testament”, I swear I would be in the freaking front row. But instead we talk about very generic things that just bore me and don’t really teach me anything new.
While I will continue working on my faith in Jesus, I believe there are many things that one can find faith in (although they are not salvation related things). For example, you can have faith in helping a cancer patient get better and exercise that faith by working in healthcare. You can have faith in criminal justice and exercise that faith by working in law enforcement. You can have faith in the good of humanity to help others in need and exercise that faith through volunteering for a charity.
I could go on with all the things we can find faith in, and I think it’s going to be a little different for every person. What I think is common to every person is that our faith needs to be meaningful to us and find tangibly positive results in the real world.
So, should I quit watching Netflix, playing video games, reading books, and using Tinder? I don’t know, probably.
But I think I can realize what the root problems are to figure out why I’m using them, and then find more healthy modes of expression. As I said, reading books is actually a good thing, as long as I’m not retreating into them, and am actually reading with a good purpose. Netflix is fun entertainment, but I should limit my usage and only watch stuff that is a good influence on me. Video games can be ok here and there, but I shouldn’t skip out on actual socializing to play them. Tinder is a terrible idea, and it’s not something that’s going to produce anything actually good in my life, at least, not the way I use it.
These things definitely are crutches that I use to mitigate the potential development of anxiety and depression in my life. But here’s the thing: if you just go up to some guy with a broken leg and take his crutches, he will just fall on the ground and get hurt even worse. His leg has to heal first. So too, I have to find positive ways to heal the root of my problems.
Potential ways this could happen is if I got a girlfriend/family, a career, friends, changed my attitude, and developed my faith. But those things will not happen if I retreat into isolation and escape with fake realities. They will be solved through a purposeful examination and participation in life, and I think I’m ready to take part in that.