FORTyFIED - Cecile Lopez Lilles (The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2014 - 12:00am

Unimpressed” can be defined as feeling no admiration, interest, or respect. My daughter told me about this recent social media phenomenon — a meme — called “not impressed,” which started in 2012 during the last summer Olympics. Just days after 16-year-old US gymnast, McKayla Maroney, settled for a silver medal in the women’s vault final, her facial reaction during the awarding became a viral favorite. Maroney made waves with a pout that captured her second place disappointment, prompting the birth of the “McKayla is Not Impressed” Tumblr, sporting her signature expression toward situations outside gymnastics.

 There’s a PhotoShopped image of her in the Oval Office war room with President Obama, Hillary Clinton and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, watching the live feed as Navy SEALS raid the Bin Laden safehouse, and she looks unimpressed. There’s one of her with the cast of Magic Mike and she is unimpressed by the abs of Channing Tatum. There’s one of her in the Sistine Chapel and she is unimpressed by the ceiling painted by Michelangelo. There’s one of her with a NASA control team and she is unimpressed by the Mars Rover landing. The online world quickly started cranking out images of McKayla’s unimpressed state in various settings and posting them.

Sad, this lack of interest. But then again, what do we expect when we inundate social media with countless photos of what once were “never heard” or “never seen” experiences? Nothing is rare or unique anymore, because we experience and share things constantly. From harvesting fresh truffles, to eating at the world’s best restaurant (El Celler de Can Roca), to sky diving, to gutting a pig, to walking across the salt pans of the Kalahari — name it, we have seen it, and virtually done it. Nothing amazes us anymore. Things our fathers couldn’t see or do because of financial, physical or time constraints, we are now able to tick off our Bucket Lists. Things they labored for, saved for, waited a whole lifetime for, can be had at the press of a button. So no matter what the next person posts, we are — and remain — well, unimpressed.

Can you imagine a world of people largely unimpressed? Can you imagine having no joy at all? Can you imagine not having any reason to wake up, to look forward to something, to be excited over anything? My visual of that is a universe full of zombies. Okay, if that’s too out there for you let’s start small. Think of an intimate dinner party where all the guests are unimpressed. Pathetic? Let’s go smaller still. How about one — just one — person who is unimpressed and will be that way for the rest of her life and you’re the lucky one sentenced to spending time with her? The image of this one unimpressed person that springs to mind is Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham and her ubiquitous frown.

I asked a middle-aged male friend about what impresses him and he was stumped. He gave out a long “Hmmm…” Then he paused, and said nothing. He looked at his shoes, nodded a few times, and still nothing. So I said, “There must be something that impresses you.”

“About what? Life in general?” he asked, clearly buying time because he is anything but slow.

“Anything,” I said.

“A car that handles well — I’ll start with that,” he said.

“What do you mean by ‘handles well’?”

“How it behaves on the road. It certainly is not about the looks. A good-looking car is a good-looking car. Road handling is something else. That moves me.”

“And in English that means?”

“It hugs the road. It corners well. The clutch isn’t doesn’t give much resistance. The suspension is solid. The steering is precise — stuff like that, which is of no interest to you.”

The conversation had to end there. I was unimpressed.

I asked a 20-something nephew what impresses him and he said without hesitation, “The feel of a girl’s skin, like her arms, when they’re so smooth — just like a baby’s. So, I guess the feel of a baby’s skin too.”

“Do you have to touch her skin to be impressed?” I asked. “Don’t you just have to look and be knocked out? Check out the Internet, gorgeous women are plastered everywhere.”

“Yeah, but a lot of that’s fake — it’s mostly add-on, like surgery or something. If it’s not then it’s PhotoShopped.  Dude, it’s all the same,” he explained.

So then I asked my 15-year-old son what impressed him. “A nice, juicy steak,” he said. 

“Even if every other post on Instagram is a picture of a steak in some restaurant?” I asked.

“First, girls photographing their food... urgh,” he grumbled, then added: “Food is for eating. Second, you can’t tell it’s juicy from photos.”

And then it hit me.  We are only unimpressed by things we see and hear through social media bombardment because of sensory overload. But — and this is a big but — only for the sense of sight and hearing. We don’t employ our sense of smell, taste, and touch online so what remains to impress us are things we can smell, taste, and feel in person, hence, excellent road handling, the smoothness of a woman’s skin, and a juicy steak. If this holds true as well for positive character traits that are revealed to us mostly through interpersonal interaction such as kindness, generosity, humility, charity, magnanimity — those that hardly come through online — then, hey, we’re still good.

* * *

Thank you for your letters. I am conducting a creative writing worship for children and teens starting February 2014. Interested parties may reach me at cecilelilles@yahoo.com.

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