Monday, May 1, 2017

Media Binge & Media Fast

The assignment of the media binge and the media fast was challenging in different (and unanticipated) ways.

Due to the way I normally consume media, I didn’t think the binge would be very difficult. However, keeping a screen in front of me at all times is not the same thing as having access to a screen at all times. My attention span was short, and was incredibly shallow when I could focus on one thing. Ultimately, I was only able to participate in the binge for a single day. My head began to ache as I kept up my interaction with screens, and I felt it was in my best interest to cease using them. After this, I did keep up a continuous stream of music and podcasts in order to participate in the spirit of the binge. While my music didn’t noticeably alter my attention, as I often keep music playing throughout my day, the podcasts were a change to my behavior that had an impact on the way I was able to interact with people and focus on my daily tasks. However, I am willing to admit that my level of attention might be lower at all times than it would otherwise, without listening to music consistently.

After my media binge, I wasn’t particularly concerned about my media fast. I was immediately taken by surprise by the difficulty. I remembered not to use my phone as an alarm to wake up in the morning, and as I reached for my phone to check the weather for the day I remembered I wasn’t supposed to. As I went through my day, I realized I felt extremely awkward staying off my phone while everyone around me used it to pass time. My cognitive dependence on digital technology and media is quite high, and I frequently felt the urge to pull my phone out of my backpack just to check the time, or my messages, or my social media. Because my most frequent interaction with digital media comes through my music consumption, I virtually had to cut myself off from music as I fasted, which was both frustrating and boring. I also realized that it’s a common habit to google answers to questions as soon as I had them, which gratifies me with the answer immediately. During my fast I refrained from googling any answers to my random questions, such as:

Was Prussia a German state?
What is the Igglybuff pokemon?
What is the Gulf Shore concert series?
Where do cashews come from?

These, and more, were questions that I wanted answers to, but wasn’t willing to go to the library to look up in an encyclopedia (though, in the case of two of these, the information wouldn’t be available in print encyclopedias regardless as to my motivation to look it up).

The Powers readings describe a time of intentional, willful disconnection from digital media in order to experience things on a deeper level. While I can understand and appreciate that, in my personal experience, a total disconnect did not help me achieve depth of experience. I was distracted, frustrated, and a bit anxious that I was missing something, even though I knew I (probably) wasn’t. However, the binge did serve to illustrate how harmful a constant consumption of media can be to the body and the mind, and I believe that achieving some sort of balance is necessary to life in the 21st century.

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