Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Crash Course in Media Yo-Yo Dieting

 By: Geoffrey Ledbetter
      Last Sunday morning, I had the rare opportunity to learn first hand how it feels to have the attention span of a goldfish. Because I believe in being fully committed to my pursuits, I had surrounded myself with as many screens as I could find and had them each engaged with a different task. In total, my laptop was opened to Imgur, my iPad was logged on to Facebook, an incredibly old iPod touch I had dug out of my closet was set playing 90's music through a single earbud, the television was tuned to Arrested Development on Netflix, and my antiquated flip phone was flipped open to a half-finished text. My mind was almost completely numb from the overstimulation of it all. I was completely tuned in and zoned out, unsure of where to focus my attention and certain that I was only picking up about a hundredth of the information that was bombarding me from every angle. It was an overwhelming experience, but I learned a few things: a) It is indeed possible to have too many screens going at once, b) Arrested Development has way more Easter eggs that I remember, and finally c) I still have no idea what half of the lyrics to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" are, or what they mean.
     The media fast, on the other had, had me engaging in all sorts of wonderful, low-stress activities. I found time to begin a book I've been meaning to read for a while (The Colour of Magic), take a walk, reflect on life, and participate in the newest fad sweeping the nation: adult coloring books. (It's anybody's guess how I passed kindergarten; I am absolutely terrible at coloring inside the lines.)
     During my brief hiatus from screens, I had the opportunity to sit around and think up clever and profound things to say about digital media in my blog post like "deep and truly meaningful moments cannot be experienced in front of a screen" and "the meaning of life cannot be found at the bottom of your social media feed." However, though it was nice to have an excuse to avoid answering e-mails for a while, I actually found myself craving some form of human connection. Unfortunately, in this day and age, it is very difficult to get a hold of someone and really connect with them without the use of a cellphone. While cutting down on digital media use may give a person an opportunity to find that magical "distance" from the social media masses that William Powers writes about in Hamlet's Blackberry, new technologies make it much easier to reach out to people and schedule a time to meet up and hang out. Our problem is not that we lack the ability to experience solitude; a person can disconnect at any time that they choose simply by stepping outside. Rather, our constant connection to our screens has diminished our willingness to seek out true human connection outside of digital media. As I have noted in a previous online posting, this dynamic is perhaps best expressed by the famed cultural critic Armin van Buuren: "Everyone is connected, but no one is connecting."

     So did I learn anything from this experience, you ask? I like to think so. I plan on finishing The Color of Magic, and if tomorrow is nice I may just take another walk. However, as I wrap up this blog, I have a tab on my computer opened to Imgur and the iPad sitting next to me is logged on to Facebook, so do with that as you will...

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