A couple weeks ago, while looking at photos of cats and writers on Pinterest (yes, this is how I spend my weekends) I stumbled across a veritable smorgasborg of amusing, yet sometimes downright strange, Ryan Gosling Hey Girl memes.
These amusing Hey Girl Memes such as Hey Girl, I cried too when Professor Snape Died and Hey Girl, I love it when you wear your yoga pants all day led to hours of distraction, and laughter, and eventual befuddlement at the whole Hey Girl craze.
During these lost hours spent perusing the Hey Girl webosphere, the distinct feeling that I could be doing something better with my time washed over me. I ignored this feeling, clicking on yet another Hey Girl distraction, which in turn led me to this, the ultimate distraction—the Hey Girl Google Chrome Application.
“Sick of your Facebook friends? News getting you down? Instantly change all the images on a webpage to Ryan Gosling,” the application advertises.
Disturbing or amusing? I vacillated between both feelings on the subject.
Sometimes I found the application humorous, other times I found it representative of just how disconnected and celebrity-obsessed our culture is.
And so, I should have stopped there.
I should have disregarded the application and moved on, but I didn’t.
I’ve always been a curious creature. When I was younger, I was the kind of kid who’d see a random berry on a tree and eat it (thanks Mom for calling poison control that one time). So, adventurous-random-berry-eater that I was, I downloaded the Hey Girl Application to see what it was all about.
You know that whole Pavlov’s Dog thing, that experiment where dogs were conditioned to react to stimuli in a different way through the ringing of a bell, the bell being the new triggering mechanism that conditioned their behavior?
Well, that happened to me. The Hey Girl application was the bell and I, the dog, in this unwelcome classical conditioning experiment.
At first, I used the application in jest (as witnessed by the above elephant journal screenshot). However, after a few weeks, I noticed that I’d begun using the application (flooding the screen with images of Gosling’s face) whenever the internet made me feel sad, anxious or scared.
Weird, I know.
I could have just exited these “sad, anxious, scary” websites.
I used to just exit these “sad, anxious, scary” websites.
But not now; now, I used Gosling’s face instead. Now I clicked on the Hey Girl application and Gosling arrived, like a plastic knight in shining armor, and replaces all the “sad, anxious, scary” images with his own and lessened my anxiety.
What the f**k was happening to me? I wondered, while simultaneously feeling the need to keep staring at Gosling’s face.
Am I really this programmable?
The irony was, I’d never even been drawn to Gosling. I’d never even cared that much about the Hey Girl Memes. He was never a big deal to me. Sure, I’d watched the Notebook and Lars and the Real Girl. Sure, he was decent looking.
But I can honestly say that I’d never thought of him as anything that could help me through times of emotional turmoil, or even slight emotional discomfort.
He’d always just been that guy I saw in a couple movies I liked, and that was all.
Yet, now he was something more. Now, thanks to the Hey Girl application (and no doubt my obsessive nature) he’d become some kind of weird Internet comfort food, a virtual mac and cheese.
But he wasn’t comforting, not really.
If anything, he was just another symbol of my desire to distract and distance myself from my emotions, from the here and now, from the right now.
And as I write this, as I’m in the now and feeling slightly uncomfortable (and therefore wanting to click on the Hey Girl application, thanks Google Chrome), I’m thinking, this is not okay. This is just one more thing. One more way to avoid real, honest moments.
And I am finally letting go of wanting to avoid these moments, retraining myself through meditation and yoga to be present and mindful within my life.
I’m finally starting to understand that emotions don’t run away from us just because we run away from them. They linger. They wait. They creep up on us later, peek-a-boo, they shout (at least, mine do).
I’m finally acknowledging the various feelings that move through my life, my body and my mind.
I don’t want to play emotional hide and seek anymore. (It was almost always just hiding anyway. There was very little seeking involved. Believe me.)
And as silly as the Hey Girl application is, most likely created in jest, I will not allow it to become one more thing that tricks me into feeling less, into turning away, into leaving emotional rooms within myself locked.
There is already so much noise in this world.
There is already so much clutter, so much plastic distraction shielding us from us.
And Gosling is one noise I can rid myself of, one cluttered room that can be uncluttered.
So, Hey Girl, this is goodbye.
Hey Girl, I’m deleting you.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Laura Ashworth