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How the Media Reminds Us of Our Mortality

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Whether they are actively conscious of it or not, everyone is searching for answers to questions such as “who are we? Why does our life matter?” Contrary to popular opinion, if there is no greater reason for our existence, are we content with that? With living a “meaningless” life of pleasure? It can be hard to put these questions aside and live life in the moment without searching for a deeper meaning. 

Every day, we see both the best and worst parts of our peer’s lives represented on social media. On the news, we are also shown the best and worst, although usually only the worst, of strangers’ lives. Someone’s life was cut short by a drunk driver, someone landed their dream job, or someone unexpectedly lost a loved one. This abundance of extreme highs and lows can feel like sensory overload and can cause feelings of existential dread. This phenomenon is known as mortality salience, or the awareness that death is unavoidable and inevitable. For some people, mortality salience can be detrimental to their happiness, while for others it can be essential. So…why do we care so much? Are we desperately trying to prove that our lives have meaning?

Over the past several years, many people have come to appreciate the “mundane,” everyday aspects of life. Influencers post increasingly “casual” photos and romanticize daily life. Romanticization of daily life has been popular on apps like tik tok, instagram, and other social media platforms. The small, beautiful parts of each day like a long walk on a sunny day, a heartfelt conversation with a close friend, or even grocery shopping for vegetables have come to be appreciated. Does this mean we have actually become more “real” online? Or have just gotten better at making our highlight reel look less posed?

If you live each day as it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” -Steve Jobs

Throughout high school, my AP English classmates and I embraced nihilism wholeheartedly. “It doesn’t matter because nothing matters” we’d say. Now, circling back, nihilistic beliefs seem to help people feel more content with their lives and aren’t as tragic as our teacher would have liked us to believe. One can be painstakingly aware of their inevitable death and still live joyfully while accepting that there may not be a greater reason for our existence and be alright with that.

While being very aware of imminent death sounds depressing in theory, it can help one live life to the fullest and have a greater appreciation for the little things. There is a simple beauty in not being afraid and instead being more grateful and present for each moment as it passes. 

In a world fraught with tragedies, every day is precious and irreplaceable. 

As Leo Babauta said, “The life you have left is a gift. Cherish it. Enjoy it now, to the fullest. Do what matters, now.” 

So as cliché as it sounds, laugh a little louder, smile a little brighter, and love a little harder. Or in other words, memento mori (remember that you [have to] die).

Mercy Johnson

Washington '23

Mercy is a third-year physiology major at the University of Washington who hopes to become a physician someday. She enjoys journalism, ethics, and anthropology courses. In her spare time, she loves to hike, play piano, and read. She is also a devoted coffee connoisseur!
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