This week I’ve asked my Intro to Mass Communication students to keep a log of their media use, but not just a factual log:
Watched TV: 3 hours
No, I’ve asked them to not only figure out how much time a day they spend consuming or engaged in media (including but not limited to TV, radio and digital music, Internet, newspapers, magazine, books, video games, movies, social media and mobile-device content), but to figure out how much of that is done in overlap, and what the reason is for the different uses. And not just the obvious uses, like “for fun” or “to help with homework.” I want a little deeper look than that.
So, I want to know if they are engaged in multiple media consumption simultaneously. How many of us watch a TV show while we check Facebook? So, we overlap our media consumption. Big deal, right? But why do we do this? I have just a few games I play on my phone, like Words with Friends. Why do I do that while I’m watching an “Orange is the New Black” marathon? That is a good show. Why do I feel compelled to play my game at the same time? I’m not sure on that one. I’ll need to ponder. I mean, that show rocks, so it should keep my full attention.
Now, I do know why I sometimes watch a show I’ve seen hundreds of times, like” Family Guy” and shop online at the same time. The show I’ve seen before is comforting, it’s background noise with an easy laugh I’m already waiting for. Right now, I spend a lot of my day consuming hard news, grading papers, speaking with students, lecturing, training a new employee, working on a dissertation, and writing and answering e-mails to plan a future conference. “Family Guy” is a candy bar for my brain, and it takes so little effort to consume and enjoy it, that my chocolate-sedated brain can still shop for bargains on my iPad in tandem.
I’ve asked the students to be honest about their media consumption time. I’m not sure they all will, but I hope so. The assignment is not meant to be judgmental. It’s to be realistic, not really so much about the time we spend as media consumers, but as to what we are getting from that media use. Media is saturating our lives, but they can still be good lives, right? With that in mind, here is my log from today as accurate as I can recall it.
- 2 hours listening to music, partly in the morning as I was getting ready, partly as I was driving to and from Oklahoma City in the evening. The music in the morning gets me going, and along with coffee, puts me in a good mood. The music in the car is mostly habit, I think, but it’s also just nice to hear my tunes when there is stupid traffic. Music also seems to make a drive go faster.
- 2.5 hours over the course of the day checking news online, sometimes with news apps, and sometimes at my home or office computer. I need to check the news, obviously for my job, but I think I would do it anyway to stay informed. It’s important to me to contribute to conversations about what’s going on in the world. But a concrete example of using this for work is looking at a news website to insert a story link into my lecture presentation. The first story I read this morning was the update on Syria, but I have to say I eventually caved and read about Miley’s twerking. (And I kind of hated myself for the latter.)
- 30 minutes will be spent soon reading a little bit of a fiction novel before I fall asleep. This is pure, 100 percent enjoyment. It takes a lot for me not to be reading a book for pleasure.
- 1 hour of “Scrubs” reruns on Netflix. This is not the candy bar for my brain scenario that watching “Family Guy” is. I didn’t really follow “Scrubs” when it first came out, so I actively watch this. It’s enjoyable time with my husband. Because it’s on Netflix, we often pause it and talk about what a scene or a character reminds us of. Often times it takes us quite a bit longer to get through an episode. He also likes to talk about the directing, and we both have comments about the writing (on any show).
- 30 minutes . . . (this is so not like me) playing a video game! I am addicted to the “The Simpsons Tapped Out” game. I am not into many games, but it’s only my love of “The Simpsons” that keeps me coming back to build Springfield after Homer destroyed it in a power plant explosion. This is audience fragmentation at work. I am not really into games, but I am a huge, dorky Simpsons fan. Someone built this game for huge, dorky Simpsons fans. Now I play it. Why do I play it? It’s kind of clever, it’s a simple pleasure, and I have to admit, I anticipate what I get to build next in the game. But, about 10 minutes at a time is all I can handle without getting bored.
- 1.5 hours split up over the day checking or posting between Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Part of this was work related, and part of this was just for entertainment. Some of this overlapped with TV watching. On the entertainment side, I like to see how my close friends’ days are going and what my favorite authors have posted about, but I admit, I like to see what some out-there people just have to say from time to time. Concerning work, right now I’m trying to connect with various people to help out for my upcoming conference. Social media sites area great way to get in touch.
- 30 minutes on WordPress, writing this blog.
So, that’s about 8.5 hours. The average American consumes media for 9.25 hours per day, according to the most recent edition of Media Now. So I come in short of the average. I’ve tried to be completely honest–I mean, I admitted the Simpsons game time. Let’s see where my students take this. I’m interested in their reasons behind various use.