Pushing pause on my ability to push pause

17 Aug
Creating & Recording by AvatarShark

Photo credit to AvatarShark

Or, I think I have a media consumption problem

I went for a walk over lunch today.  I put on my sunglasses, switched by iPod to The Decemberists and walked around town.  (Generally I feel that it’s a good policy to walk further than the 10 feet from my car to the office door at some point during the day.)  While I was walking I realized that I’m plugged in to some sort of audio or looking at a screen for at least 90% of my waking hours.  90% of the time, I’m getting some sort of audio or visual stimulus that’s not related to what’s happening in the physical world around me.

I turn on the TV news while I get ready in the morning, listen to an audio book on the way to work.  I have three screens in front of me while I work, my headphones in my ears.  I carry my iPod, phone, and iPad with me at all times.  Within two minutes to walking into work or home, I’m logged in to my laptop checking e-mail or social media sites.

Day 281 Whoa, he's alive! by Camzor

Photo credit to Camzor

I think I might have what you’d call a media consumption problem.  Most of the time, I’m not even aware that it’s on.  I’m more aware of the lack of music or narrative when I’m unplugged than I am of the noise when I’m plugged in.  It may be hard to believe, but I actually work better with my headphones in; the music helps me to stay focused on my work.  I couldn’t even tell you all of what I listened to on my iPod today.  (Although it did include a particularly good episode of the Slate culture gabfest while I was doing some data cleanup.)  When there’s no noise, I’m anxious, feeling bored and easily distracted.  I can’t wait to get my next hit of it.  Media is my drug.

ARISSA RIQUELME, Laptop, computadora by Remolacha.net pics

Photo credit to Remolacha.net pics

After my post the other day about deep vs. shallow reading and brain processes (“Your Brain on Facebook”), I’m a little worried about what’s happening to my brain.  I put on Law & Order to go to sleep because it’s easier for me to fall asleep with it on than with it off.  Usually, I’m asleep within about 15 minutes, so it takes me a few nights to get through an episode.  I’m a bit concerned that I think rape and murder make appropriate topics for bedtime stories. 

“Yeah Maggie, that’s weird.  How the hell did you pick Law & Order as your bedtime story of choice?”

Because it’s so predictable.  I’ve seen them all before and I’m never interested enough to want to stay awake.   (Somehow I don’t think they’ll want to use that endorsement for advertizing purposes!)  Without a show in the background, my mind races; I listed to the noises my neighbors make when they walk across the floor upstairs.  I worry about the things I need to get done at work the next day.

Law & Order CastIt’s not that it’s Law & Order; it’s about that it’s soothing, predictable noise.  Even during the day, I like podcasts that have voices that I know, listening to the same album over and over again.  (It took me forever to get through the audiobook of Julie Andrews’ autobiography because she reads it in her beautiful voice.  The pretty sounds made great white noise, but I had no idea what the words were.  Turns out they were sad.)

I’m trying to make myself go on media breaks.  I hear about parents that enforce screen free time with their kids.  At first I scoffed (I think it was the slant rhyme), but now I’m trying to force myself to do the same thing.  I’m trying to take out the headphones for at least part of my walk and to really experience the world around me.  Being someone who was raised in a Midwest, Catholic family, it seems a little like I’m trying to meditate and it makes me feel silly.  But, I think it’s a pursuit that I need to continue.

Wicken Fen - going for a walk by florriebassingbourn

Photo credit to florriebassingbourn

I’m trying to learn to pick up the phone and call my coworkers (or walk over to the local ones offices) when I need to talk to them, rather than having discussions over e-mail or chat.  For one thing – doing that makes me take my eyes off the screen, unplug the headphone and interact with a real person in real time.

I think I use media as a crutch.  It allows me to engage with the world in exactly the way I want at exactly the speed I want.  I choose what song comes on, I choose when I want it to stop.  I choose how long it takes me to respond to an e-mail and often rewrite what I want to say three or four times before I get it exactly right.  There’s no one there looking at me going, “Hello?  McFly?  Anybody home?”  When working on a computer, I choose exactly what’s in my field of vision.  I don’t have to close my eyes to avoid something unpleasant; I can minimize it and pull something else up instead.

Oh Remote Control... by PunkJr

Photo credit to PunkJr

The problem is that I can’t do that it the real world.  I can’t minimize someone I don’t want to talk.  I can’t skip to the next track when someone starts to cry.  I can’t put the person in front of me on pause.

But, my brain thinks that I should be able to.  So, here it is:

“Hi, my name is Maggie, and I’m a media addict.”

Questions of the day: How much of your day do you spend engaged with some form of media?  Are you a media addict?  (Don’t worry, MaggieCakes is a safe space; you’re among friends.)


MaggieCakes is a blog about social media, marketing, culture, and what’s new on the internet written by me, Maggie O’Toole.  Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

6 Responses to “Pushing pause on my ability to push pause”

  1. georgettesullins August 18, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    I spend a lot of time on the computer in that I teach online, and have several contract jobs that require it too. I still drive into the college for at least one face to face class, and on the road I do not have anything on, plugged in or poised to vibrate…I do not like to drive the freeway with a phone to my ear…or hands free for that matter. yes, car time is quite time, relatively speaking.

  2. ordinarydayinparadise August 20, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    Hi, my name is Kristi and I’m a media junkie too. 🙂 I spend about 8-10 hours in front of a computer at work with multiple monitors and a phone headset, with my ipod playing. At lunch, I check my phone, take my turn on Words with Friends and get a hit of facebook & twitter status updates. When I get home, I watch the news and catch up on some sitcoms. I’ll usually spend awhile on the computer not really doing anything productive, reading, paying a bill or looking up new recipes – then I go to bed, usually listening to music. The first step is to admit you have a problem, right? Excellent post!

  3. emilyelst August 25, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    I wouldn’t have thought that much, until I actually sat down and thoght about it. Let’s presume I sleep 8 hours (ideal world) so I have 16 hours in my normal week day. I spend 3 hours travelling to and from work, that will involve plug into iPod, and possibly read kindle, or use phone to check facebook, words with friends, email etc (even my staring out the window days are plugged into music).. work is 8-9 hours on the computer, with the occasional conversation or meeting to break it up.. evenings involve tv or dvd or playing on laptop to catch up with the world online.. maybe some reading (again lately on the kindle) and then to bed for another day.

    Weekends are the only time I am really engaged in the world without some external, plugged in stimulation for it ( and of course I still listen to music, play on the computer and watch movies…) So it appears, yes, I am plugged in 80-90% of my life. And I used to make imaginary cubby houses in the trees. Thanks for making me notice Maggie!

    • Maggie O'Toole August 25, 2011 at 11:28 am #

      Isn’t it crazy when you really think about it? When I was writing this post, I listed out my schedule, kind of like you did, with specifics on how long I was doing which media related tasks. I didn’t inlcude it because I thought everyone would think I was crazy when they read it. I’m glad to have found a fellow media junky to understand.

  4. emilyelst August 25, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    p.s. 80-90% of my WAKING life 😉 Dreamland is pure and visceral..

    • Maggie O'Toole August 25, 2011 at 11:28 am #

      I don’t think that I can even claimn that because of falling asleep to Law & Order. So, I guess I’ve got media about 10% of my sleep time, too.

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