Being conscious about my media habits made me aware of a few tendencies or trends in my media interaction:
1) Smaller bites
I can definitely say I consume a smaller number of books than I used to but I don’t read less than I used to. What happened is that since becoming a mom with a little one to care for, and since I’ve discovered the breadth and availability of great writing on the web, printed hard copy materials have taken a back seat in my life. In general, hard copy books are longer pieces which a) require some uninterrupted stretches of time to read; b) require a measure of dedicated concentration I find a bit harder to find; and c) require space that is becoming a premium in our lives: on our shelves, on my table, in my bag that I carry. Mind you, the digital format has made it possible to carry a LOT more books in a compact format: I do have about 900 titles on my MacBook. In general I am now reading a lot of shorter (ummmm, 140 characters?) bits: articles, posts, and the longest article I ever read was not longer than a typical novel or book that I read. However, coming to this realization has made me sort of sad: I MISS the immersive experience of getting lost in a book, sitting on the sofa and reading cover-to-cover in one day. Hasn’t happened in a long time.
2) Clicky finger problem
Oh, it’s just so so easy for me to get stuck in browsing and clicking from one topic to the next, especially since I very recently started to “get” Twitter and come across links on a minute by minute basis. I often experience information overload – to me that means taking it all in, usually some drivel mixed in with the good stuff (though some of it’s good drivel: fantasy couple fan-made music videos on YouTube) and it’s stuff that goes nowhere. That is, I can read and watch and listen to tons of things, take it in and sometimes I wonder that it has no effect other than immediate mental gratification – no action, no betterment, no movement towards improving or changing something. Yes, I think that information is good if it is useful, if it helps me and my circle and society and community to be more connected, more creative and more humane.
In fact, after observing myself for 4 months, I think the movement actually is towards the worse: there are many nights I tend to stay up way later than if I just didn’t browse “just these 3 more sites” and thus have less sleep, and I am conscious of time at night I could have spent talking to my partner that I used instead to watch some streaming video. This wasn’t exactly a new realization, but it’s been accelerated by my new involvement on Twitter and with Tumblr.
3) More than less
This is an odd trend because we have been making very conscious efforts in our home to REDUCE stuff. Early this fall, we sorted and donated/sold 300+ books in our home and gave away about 300 cds of music (after very carefully making 3 backups of all the files). So there is less media in physical formats in our place. But in terms of digital media, it’s all too easy to collect more. Case in point: do I really NEED to download all 16 new podcasts from my feeds every week? It isn’t possible to listen to them all. And I subscribe to many more feeds in Google reader than I can possibly keep up with. I have put 900+ ebooks on my MacBook of which I will read a fraction during my lifetime. And I stopped downloading music after I realized how many unheard albums I had in iTunes. In this I want to apply the principles we adopt in our physical space to my digital/mental space.
4) The hardware rocks
More and more of our interaction with media takes place on smaller and smaller devices which have really astounding capbilities. That is not a profound realization. What is is the fact that in our household, we really really like those smaller devices and have had a tendency to purchase them off the bat because they were dazzling and usually, on sale. It’s so easy to collect the gadets for all sort of different and multiple purposes, but turnover and the rate of falling out of love with those devices has made me realize that new can be GOOD, but to serve our lives and purposes well, it must also be USEFUL, and be of ADDED value, not a detractor (=time waster). There have been such a proliferation lately of amazing gadgets (maybe that’s my observation because M and I have been more watchful of tech news this past semester) and we would really really like to own some of them. My question is: do we NEED them?
I’ve come up with a personal process/guidelines, still pretty rough, for any acquisition of the next awesome little device in a timely and deliberate fashion, not just because it’s shiny and new and nice, but because:
- something that we are currently using has become unusable and really needs to be replaced (i.e. the laptop that chugs and whirs and bogs down);
- there is a new function (or functions) the gadget performs that we rate as important enough in our lives to want to include it (i.e. the tablet/phone for M once his existing phone plan expires);
- we have made an honest assesment about how we are going to spend our money and look at the long-term investment value of the device rather than its bling;
- the quality, UI and features of the gadget are reputable and reliable, even if it means we are spending more.
These are some of the things I’ve observed over the months. I liked the mindfulness of the exercise.