The Independent

Confessions of a neurotic media consumer

SANTA ROSA — I’ve been about three months without television and it’s made my life quieter. Couple that with the fact that I hardly ever get on Facebook anymore and I’m a veritable hermit.

Sorry, friends, but I got tired of social media years ago. I keep a presence out there, and I check to see what’s up with friends from time to time, but I don’t really contribute to the social media conversation out there anymore.

If I can’t keep up with friends and family in person, my preferred methods are email and phone calls. And texting, though I’m mighty slow at that.

I might as well admit that there are times I conveniently forget to check my phone for hours at a time, especially if I’m (1) really focused on something, like my newspaper deadline, or (2) am exhausted from that deadline.

For an almost-old man like me, always being connected can get frustrating. Doesn’t anybody ever unplug? I do. Sometimes I just want to live in the moment, in my immediate physical surroundings, rather than having my eyeballs glued to a computer screen in my hand.

And what of the freedom we give away, such as the freedom to get blissfully lost somewhere, without help from your GPS? What’s wrong with wanting some down time, without being connected to the world?

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with disconnecting from the world: You fall behind.

Seems my inbox is always piled high; it’s a big medium in my line of work, and unplugging just piles things up even more. At least with phone calls you have a beginning and an ending instead of a back-and-forth exchange all day.

My crystal ball tells me the rise of social media will be one of the defining characteristics of this decade we’re now in. For better and for worse.

Look what it’s done to our political discourse. If the algorithms match you up as a liberal, you’re fed the liberal bias, and the same is true for the conservative bias. Opposing viewpoints become out-of-sight, out-of-mind, unless you go looking for them.

On the other hand, social media has ignited movements, thrusting people into activist communities determined to be heard. Flash protests are now possible and I predict they’ll become more common in the days ahead. Participatory democracy is being advanced in many ways on social media.

But democracy is also under fire because of social media. Real news is getting mixed in with fake news and it’s getting harder to tell one from the other. Thanks, Russia. Thanks, Facebook.

The fusion of fact and fiction has also occurred in mediums that preceded social media. Reality shows and their exaggerated docu-drama storylines distorted reality for the sake of entertainment, and that’s had a negative impact on our culture. We even elected a reality-show star to the presidency.

I don’t know about you, but I never really got into reality TV. I like to keep my fiction and my fact separate. I prefer sitcoms. That makes me intellectually superior.

Of course I’m kidding. I do feel uppity sometimes, though, because I read more than the average joe, but I can’t get too cocky about it, since I’m still capable of zoning out in front of stupid stuff. Have you seen the latest movie version of The Three Stooges? Hilarious!

So there you have it, my media consumption laid bare… unless you want to go into the world of—well, being a family newspaper and all, we’re not going there…

Overall, I feel I’m becoming the odd one out when it comes to my personal media consumption. I tried to loan someone a DVD the other day and, being much younger and far more sophisticated in her media consumption, she told me she has no DVD drive. She said she’d go download the movie instead. I feel like my grandparents and their old 78-rpm records. (Not sure what that is? Just google it.)

Then there are the people who do everything on their phones. Who can blame ‘em? The world is in the palm of their hands.

The virtual world, that is. The real world is one step in front of you.

 

Tom McDonald is founder and editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange and editor and publisher of The Communicator in Santa Rosa, N.M. He can be reached at tmcdonald.srnm@gmail.com.