Perhaps the title of this article lured you in, curious about the over-consumption of social media, but alas, a phone vibrates in your pocket; don’t look away. Fight the temptation. Could it be that the gnawing sensation to look at your phone right now is the product of over-consumption of electronic media? I’m guilty, and in a sense I think we are all guilty. But it’s not about being perfect and abstaining from electronic media.
By electronic media, I am referring to television, radio, computers, internet, cell phones, etc. It wasn’t until I read the book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman, that I truly began to realize the problem that electronic media poses to our generation. Postman’s argument was that television is changing the way our society has a conversation. All information that is relevant to our generation is given to us in the form of entertainment. Shows like “Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show” with John Stewart is first and foremost a comedy based-show.
However, it’s one of the most popular ways young people are now informed about important topics going on in the nation. It has replaced the newspaper. Postman argues there is nothing wrong with television shows for the sole purpose of entertaining. It is when we attempt to have important conversations through television that we endanger ourselves.
We are becoming desensitized by electronic media as well. One moment television programs talk about a serious and important topic, like war or breast cancer, and the next we are being sold a car. The viewer doesn’t bat an eyelash; this is now a normal phenomenon.
With the many sources of electronic media, one hardly has time to be alone. I am referring to the small brief moments throughout the day such as walking or sitting alone and eating. Instead of initiating conversation around us or reading a book, we pull out phones and check Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. All this is doing is feeding the need to entertain ourselves constantly. When activities such as sitting and walking become so mundane that one feels it necessary to entertain one’s self, there might be a problem. The need for entertainment, for stimulus and for laughter makes things like three-hour long lectures seem unbearable. Our attention spans are decreasing, which means more side talks, cell phone usage and nodding off while a lecture is going on.
An abundance of information is available at our finger tips. The internet has made it possible for people to look up literally anything. Technology has dramatically improved life in many ways. But, it has also made it possible for companies cater to their target demographics by using social media, which hands out personal information like candy. For every productive app there is a corresponding time-wasting app. To be aware of our electronic media is the first step. Instead of spending our alone time with our phones, we should try to unplug and engage the person next to us in a chat. Learn more about an important topic or improve a skill. Pull out a book and spend some time with an author. Or just be alone and daydream.
OK, you can go check your phone now.