Some years ago a book was published that very few people read. I know I didn’t read it. But I do remember the cover of it. The title of the book was Vicarious Living in 59 Easy Steps. In case you cannot read the bottom portion, it says:
4. READ trashy paperbacks about rich, powerful, good-looking, ruthless people. Imagine you’re one of them.
That amuses me. Not enough to purchase the book although I did look at a few pages before moving on with my life. I do think vicarious living underscores popular culture. I am not sure why people are fascinated with the Kardashians or the various housewives around the country, but plenty of people follow those exploits enough to provide the funds for their lifestyles.
I have my own vicarious interests which I would like to share. I am partial to explore.org which has video cams all around the world so you can watch various animals in their habitats as well as the goings on at some pretty spectacular locations. Sometimes there is nothing much of interest happening, just like with the Kardashians, but occasionally you get to peek into an animal in their own surroundings doing their thing or watch people surfing giant waves in Hawaii. There are a host of cameras you can watch all over the world. There are some placed in animal sanctuaries and some out on the plains. I was watching some buffalo earlier today just hanging out and then I watched the snow fall at Lake Tahoe and various animals at a watering hole in Africa.
I remember a bumper sticker that said: “Work fascinates me. I can sit and watch it for hours.” While that is meant to be humorous and a reflection on its owner’s values, it does speak to the watching phenomenon. Whether you are slowing down to watch an accident or sitting in a side walk café watching the parade pass you by, people like to see what those around them are doing. Perhaps it is curiosity. We come from families and have membership in many groups – be it a work community, a clutch of friends or the people on the subway with you, we want to know what those around us are doing. Part curiosity, part making sure our surroundings are safe and part checking out the possibilities for our involvement. Maybe we join in or maybe we stay away. Walking down the street scanning the shops one might catch you eye and lure you in. Or you see someone that looks a little sketchy and you find yourself being more on guard.
People also want to know what others are doing so they can be in the know. There is a portion of the population that sees what the Kardashians are doing and wearing and they are going to get right on it. There is a part of the population that watches any reality show just to see how others whose interests with similar interests are putting those interests to work. Sometimes what others do can inspire you. Other time what they do can interest you sufficiently to watch for thirty minutes and then go on with other interests. Vicarious living may not reap you all the rewards of doing something yourself, but it does allow you to watch and then get back to your own life.