Archive for September, 2010

We’re all creatures of habit. Every person. We pour ourselves cups of coffee in the morning, we put half of our paychecks into our savings, and we procrastinate. We also turn on the radio in the car, gather the newspaper in our slippers and robes, and get distracted by the internet when all we’re trying to do is write a blog for a mass-communications course (we bloggers can develop poor habits ourselves)!

We can speculate when, why, or how our inherent need to stay connected comes second nature to us, or even how the first three habits I listed could be the direct result of the media as well. But in order to really answer all of those questions, we need a firm assessment of our current situation. Are we really subjected to a media overload? I decided to find out from a personal standpoint.

For two days, I wrote down every medium I came in contact with. I wasn’t surprised by what I found.

As soon as my 6am alarm went off, I was greeted with a warm (but LOUD and IMPOSING for 6am) song by James Taylor thanks to my clock/radio. Even before I was conscious, I had been invaded by the media. This was off to a pretty interesting start. As I’m driving to school, I pass by what seemed like 30,000 campaign signs. One would think, that when one takes back roads to avoid traffic, that one would not come in much contact with the media. Not the case in an election year…

But now that I was awake and even more alert to scope out examples of the media, things were coming at me left and right. I arrived at Towson, a town that normally looks just like this:

But with my senses focused, Towson at 7am looked something like THIS:

A bit of an exaggeration, I know, but it’s amazingly strange what your mind does when it’s focused. A handful of Clear Channel billboards jumped out at me at Towson Circle. Signs for restaurant and bar specials bombarded me at every traffic light (It is no wonder there are so many car accidents in city settings). Bumper stickers on cars in front of me did everything from advertising Ron’s Surf Shop to telling me all about their honor student. Informative . All of this commotion even has its own soundtrack, as a blend of indie rock, sports talk, and obnoxious advertisements blare through my radio. Nursing a headache, I finally park my car, walk to class, and briefly acknowledge all of the bulletin board announcements and sidewalk chalk ads I pass on my way to Van Bokkelen Hall.

After classes, it was time to work. I passed by all the same blizzard of distractions, and safely clocked in at Bill Bateman’s Bistro in Parkville. For the next six hours, I was subjected to a classic rock satellite radio station, and 16 televisions, each broadcasting¬† a different sports network. Just when I think there couldn’t be any more impositions, my phone vibrates about a bakers’ dozen times with all the text messages I missed while I was in class. I of course respond when the tables I’m waiting on are satisfied for the moment. All of this continues until I punch out, tired, and a little richer.

The drive home is uneventful. The same radio station lets my brain zone out, and the billboards and campaign posters are not as noticeable at night on these roads. I get home, and immediately check my email, facebook, fantasy football teams, blackboard, and the list goes on. All the while, I feel the need to have a secondary distraction to all of that, so I turn on the TV. For about the next three hours, as I’m studying, doing my homework, talking to friends, and responding to emails, my mind is inadvertently responding both positively and negatively to infinite tidbits of news stories, advertisements, and social commentary. Well, after hearing everyone else’s, here’s my take:

Unless you want to move out of your neighborhood, and into a tent deep in the woods with only food, water, and clothing, you will not avoid the media. And unless you despise everything it stands for, you’ll find yourself wanting to satiate your habits of being on the computer, talking and texting on the phone, or even driving by that same obnoxious billboard with that same annoying PSA. We’ve adopted media, and media made us adapt.

As soon as my homework’s done, I’m extremely tired. I attempt to watch a full episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but fail. Maybe my mind just can’t take anymore media today. Hopefully tomorrow goes a little bit easier on me, but I soon found out that it was exactly the same. I’m staying at my Dad’s house tonight, and there isn’t an extra alarm clock. With the power of Google, I bring up and set it for 6am. I shrug, laugh to myself, and pull the covers over my head.


The (attempted) Media Boycott


Who’s heard this before? If this was properly enforced in my house when I was growing up, this was by far the most useful method my parents used to get me to shut up and get my homework done. Fast-forward a few years later, and I’m hearing my sister barking this same order to her 10 year old daughter.¬† But to so many¬† parents in this time, the question that rises is “How do we enforce this?” How can we deprive someone of something that’s practically unavoidable? In this day and age, it’s almost like saying “Don’t breathe the air until your homework is done.”

For her to truly be able to obey her order, she would either have to be in an empty room with boarded up windows, or finish her homework within the next 30 seconds. I’m sitting right in the next room, and take this dilemma a step further.

Could I, or anyone, really avoid the media?

My eyes dart back and forth to assess my situation. It’s Sunday. My Holy Day. And by that, I mean, Football Day. The TV is blaring with a clamorous cacophony of crowd chants, bruising hits, and the unbearably horrible commentary of Troy Aikman. My lap is actually sweating from the computer overheating in my lap, and my phone is right next to my hand, primed and ready for texting my friends all the trash talk I need to spout for the day.

I just watched THIS play, and I’m talking about wanting to avoid the media?

I couldn’t even finish the aforementioned question in my head without three types of media interrupting my thought process. How was this going to work?

I needed to use my computer to do homework, so I couldn’t completely avoid using that. I didn’t really have to watch television, so that was a possibility. My family is amidst a bit of an emergency situation, so my phone had to stay on. But what to make of all the signs, billboards, music, and headlines that seem to inevitably find everyone?

Knowing that most of this would be impossible, I sought out to control as much as I could. I normally wake up to the sounds of 89.7 WTMD. The first morning of my media boycott, I woke up to the monotonous buzz of an ancient alarm clock. My eyes were fixated on the road more than usual during my morning commute, in an attempt to block out all the billboards and campaign signs(By the way, avoiding the media in an election year is not the easiest task). Also, how boring would you think driving without the radio is? Well, the answer is, EXTREMELY. I can answer that question on non-hypothetical terms now. Don’t take your car-radio for granted, people.

The afternoon and evening did not provide any easier situations. Walking to and from classes on a college campus with music blaring and bulletin boards around every corner are not prime conditions to avoid the media. I couldn’t even look at the ground without seeing an advertisement in chalk screaming “COME SEE FOOLS AND HORSES CD RELEASE SHOW AT THE RECHER THEATRE 10/1,” or something like that. Hmm, maybe I will go and see that. I’m not really a fan of them, but my friends band is opening that show, and…

..And now, I’m feeling extremely defeated. Not only is it almost impossible to live a normal day without being subjected to the media, but it’s also very difficult without being sucked in entirely.

Shaking my head, I walk to my car. It’s time for work. At a sports bar. Well…maybe I won’t look at the TV’s at all today.