Over the span of forty-eight hours, I cataloged my media use. I found some of the results to be surprising, considering how frequently I find myself at the computer.
Before beginning the tracking experiment, I knew there would be several factors that would affect my end results. I do not watch television. I don’t own one, I don’t go out of my way to find one to watch television. Similarly, I do not play video games, listen to the radio, read magazines or newspapers, or have an Instagram account. Essentially, the only aspects of media that I tracked my use of were:
In total, I spent nearly twenty five hours engaging in media use. However, a lot of the time spent on my Smartphone was engaging in multiple tasks at once. I recall using my phone to check my Email, Reddit, and Facebook all at the same time.
The most heavily used media over the course of the two-day experiment was Literature. I read for nearly four hours each day, giving or taking perhaps ten of fifteen minutes here or there. This surprised me, as I believed that I hadn’t had much time to read recently. However, I did read quite a bit on Friday evening and Saturday morning. It was the largest amount time I spent engaging with media.
My least-used form of media (that I still used) was split in three ways between Email, Twitter, and Facebook. I checked my Email for about an hour each day, I used Twitter and Facebook for longer periods of time, but I didn’t really “choose” to use them for much longer than an hour or two at a time.
Another good question that could be posed here is the question of why I do not use many of the listed types of media?
Instagram never appealed to me, so I never bothered pursuing that avenue. I do not mind reading magazines or newspapers, but I didn’t have any need or opportunity to read either during the two days I did the media tracking. Radio is a dated medium that I haven’t had access to in a long time. When I was much younger, I did have a favorite radio station, 93.7 “Mike” FM. However, the studio went under and I got my own computer where I could have all my music on hand without having to rely on the radio to supply it. The only form of media that I openly reject is television.
I object to television as I was never afforded much time to use them when I was younger. As I grew older, I was less interested in television than I was with the internet or music. Eventually, I just stopped watching TV on my own. I would only ever watch TV if my parents or friends were watching.
My reasoning is simple, I never grew up with it and I don’t like advertising. I think consumer culture is both annoying and dangerous to engage with. Television, in my mind, is the greatest enabler of entitlement and desire. Dense blocks of advertising, sensationalism, cheap comedy, and other pointless programming do little to positively engage its viewers. The whole industry is backwards, and feeds off of attention that has been growing without ever stopping since its conception.
These are beliefs sculpted by left-wing Marxist theorists. Antonio Gramsci was one such theorist who was discussed in our book “The Practices of Looking.” Gramsci is perhaps best well known for his concepts of “hegemony.” Hegemony is a system where dominant ideologies are described as the “default” ideology, and anything that opposes it will do so by creating “discourse.” Challenging the “norm” is key to Marxist theory, and I believe that opposing the television and radio industries is a core belief of mine. I don’t believe that television does much to improve society, and I believe that those who grant so much faith in the television industry are misplacing their trust.
While still only tangentially related to visual theory, Gramsci’s hegemonic theories impact my view of media forms that are “popular” by default. However subversive that belief may be, I choose to hold it, because popularity only means that a lot of people “like” it. It all operates along the same logic of “if all your friends were going to jump of a bridge, would you do it too?”
My use of social media was quite minimal. I used Facebook Messenger to text my friends, and I replied to maybe two emails, but aside from those instances, I opted to speak with people in person or simply not engage socially at all.
This meant that basically all my other media use was monologic, I was the only party involved in the activity. This didn’t strike me as unusual, I’m an introverted person and I don’t like engaging in social media because I prefer to speak face-to-face more often than not.
What did surprise me was how often I used my Smartphone “just because.” Looking back, I often just opened up my phone to browse Reddit when I had free time or wasn’t currently doing much else. I was also interested to find that my Smartphone usage was second only to reading print media. The difference between the two were their durations.
When using my Smartphone, I used it for shorter spans of time at seemingly random times of the day. I spent more dedicated time reading than I did on my phone. But as the two were my most commonly used media outlets, I found it interesting to see not just how much time I spent using them, but how that time was portioned out over the two days of media tracking.
In my Mass Communication Theory class, we discussed media usage in almost the same way. Our professor brought up the point of how frequently we check our Smartphones without realizing just how often we do it. We also discussed some media habits that we have, some people prefer to engage with media to help de-stress and unwind. When I discussed my own habits, some found them slightly unorthodox. But those habits might reflect why I used my selected media sources in the way I did.
When I get stressed or bored of electronic media, I fall back to some “classic” methods of decompression. These involve stepping away from the screen and doing something that doesn’t agitate me. I read, listen to music, write, or just sleep. A few hours of non-engagement helps tremendously to keep my media consumption habits healthy.
Therefore, I don’t believe I will change my media use habits in any notable way. I believe this because I think these habits are cyclical and beneficial to keeping balance between overexposure and isolation. If anything ought to change, it should be my skill in determining when “enough is enough” as I feel that I might continue to engage in media use in unhealthy amounts of time.
Luckily, university is basically forcing me to spend most of my time on work and study. This leaves me with a limited amount of free time to do what I want, and this is probably affecting how I view the time I spend engaging with media as “too much.”