Every day, every waking moment, so it seems, we are engaged with media. Throughout the past few weeks I have gone on a journey, digging deep into the depths of my own personal media use. Some things revealed to me were surprising, and my original ideas of what constitutes as media were definitely challenged. Contrary to popular belief, media is more than Facebook and Twitter. In my own experience media has been radio, online articles, streaming music; basically anything that infiltrates your personal self and asks for your attention. Interestingly enough, we don’t always give media our full attention. In a world full of information and stimulation I somehow find my way every day and have a kind of media routine. Through my research I have found various trends and patterns, surprising findings, and have come to the conclusion of why I use media.
The most glaring of my observations was when and where I use different types of media throughout my day. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check my phone the moment I woke up for any likes or messages that I accrued over night. However, after this constitutional I flip to something a little more old-fashioned, but still a very live form of media. Almost every single day I begin with WBEZ Chicago. I feel guilty when my mornings don’t start this way. I’m a communications student, so there is almost a civic duty that I feel to listening to the news. Of course, WBEZ isn’t all world events. They feature a lot of Chicago specific stories. By including the radio in my morning routine I feel more connected to my city, more balanced, more ready to start my day. As much as I love WBEZ I notice myself tuning out after a little over an hour of listening. This is when I turned to Spotify. Spotify is simply wonderful. I find that it caters to my every mood and need. It’s a great mindless replacement when I become weary of hearing about what is going on in Turkey, The Middle East, etc. Spotify accompanied most of my train rides and walks to campus. While on the train I would sometimes peek at other people’s screens just to see what they were doing. I noticed that the behavior amongst everyone in my car was pretty homogenous: aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, pausing every few swipes to like a post. I’m on the run a lot so Facebook is not a big part of my day, which I actually was a little surprised by. It’s not until the evenings when homework is as done as it can be and everything is laid out for the next day that I indulge in a long FB sesh. These usually happen in my bed while I am browsing other websites; pinterest, online retail, and youtube. I found that I was pretty consistent with my usage during these different times and locations.
Going into this project I was worried that I would be alarmed by my outrageous amount of time spent using media. Thankfully my original suspicions of my self were not as bad as I thought they were. I put a timer on my web browser which tracked the time I spent on certain websites and the different times I had been on the sites. I spent a lot more time on school sites doing homework/work. When I was on Facebook a lot of my interactions were between friends whom I do not get to see every day. These friends live in different countries, go to different schools, or are family from home. These kinds of interactions make me feel so happy. I find myself smiling and laughing out loud at our conversations. Adversely, when I recorded myself with Camtasia and did my walkthrough I did not smile much or laugh. I looked and sounded extremely bored the entire time. I also used Facebook for getting information about events and parties. For my job I have to post from a separate page than my own. This is really fun because I get to post really exciting statuses about events going on around campus. When I post using the Community Relations Page my online voice is a lot different. My tone is more excited, and I feel more comfortable taking risks with what I post: making it more cheesy, often. Through my research I noticed that I was using Instagram a lot more than I was using Facebook. I am a very visual person, which makes Instagram the perfect social platform for me. I get a lot more caught up stalking on Instagram than I do on Facebook. I feel a lot less weird scrolling through peoples’ older pictures and liking them, since Instagram serves only one purpose and this is it. If I couldn’t sleep at night I would scroll through Instagram. In retrospect, Instagram is probably the worst thing to do when you can’t sleep at night since there are so many different images and it is very stimulating. On the posting end, Instagram is my favorite platform to post from. All the filters and obsessing over the perfect caption: witty but not too witty, cute and attention grabbing, whatever will get the most likes. Let’s face it, most of us do it for the likes.
I do like getting likes on social media. It’s positive affirmation! However, the likes are not the only reason I use social media. I predominantly use media to kill time or to give myself something to not think about. Most of us are aware of this wave of mindless media that we allow to flow over ourselves whether it be a daily ritual or just something we indulge in on a rare occasion. I found myself letting the wave wash over me after a long day at work or school. After focusing for hours it’s kind of nice just to have something like Facebook or Youtube to look at, because you don’t really have to think. You just let it do its thing. It’s interesting, during my little unwinding ritual I noticed myself getting bored after about 15 minutes. There was only so much mindless material I could handle. I consistently found the internet to be less fulfilling than I had anticipated. Even if I wasn’t really paying attention to media, I had it on in the background. I’m one of those people who really can’t stand the idea of being alone, and whenever I was my computer or phone was there to fill that empty space. I live with two other people and I work in an office with a lot of people, so thankfully I don’t find my self turning to media to fill this empty space very often. However, as the month progressed and I had moments to myself instead of checking in on Facebook again or watching youtube I would go for a run instead. Ironically, even on my runs I rarely escape media because I listen to Spotify or NPR.
It’s crazy how much of our lives are now consumed by media. It is part of almost every waking moment. There were very few moments throughout my day when I was not using some form of media, and even then, those around me were engrossed in their own media worlds. Often times, my generation of Millennials can be seen as media obsessed. Not to say that this statement is not true, however, I think that because we are so engrossed with what media, it can be a very positive tool and enhancement to our lives. Take for instance my mornings. I spent most of them listening to radio news. More often than not, something I listened to on the radio that morning would come up in my every day life and conversation. Because I listened to the radio, I was able to contribute to these conversations. Additionally, Facebook was a great tool to organize social gatherings. A handful of times this month I was invited to and attended events both social and academically related that were communicated via Facebook. I’m happy to live in a world with media, even if I do at times use it in a negative way.