Intake is a new feature where members of the Free Press staff and USM community discuss their own media regimen.
Did your parents ever remark how few channels they had on TV when they were “your age”? It’s a statement that really dates those poor Baby boomers. Or so we think.
How many of us are comfortably settled into the same type of media engagement right now? Except now it’s the same three websites: Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. Gone are the commercials for laundry detergent and dish soap, in come a whole new breed of commercials advertising your friends’ lives, random strangers’ rants and inspirational messages like: “Gone to get coffee…yum!”
The kind of humdrum for which we previously used media as an escape outlet is now fed back to us as a must-see event. But what for? For proximity to family and friends? It’s the kind of proximity that reminds me of a bus tour where there’s nothing to see but people’s lives. Mom and Dad, are we there yet?
No matter how much people try to invent an internet persona, they’ll never be that interesting to warrant a subscription to a 24 hours a day multi-platform update system. This is a futuristic reversal to the Stone Age. Literally. If you lived in a cave with a fire and 25 of your closest friends and relatives, I dare say you would have been exposed to less of their lives than you have on tap right now.
It’s time to change channels.
I write this with some of the old Baggins “there-and-back-again” experience. I’ve been doing the social media thing for awhile and, as time has progressed, it’s become a bit too intrusive. I’m feeling encouraged to utilize the system differently.
It reminds me of when I first went back to school, about three years ago, and I was firmly in that routine of checking the same news outlets and media sources. During my first year, I expanded my horizons with websites like Fark for laughs, and the news site AlterNet on the recommendation of philosophy professor Eric Von Magnus. The satire and the alternative news stories peaked my curiosity and opened me up to new points of view.
Exposure to a wide range of ideas at USM, particularly because of interactions with the student body, broadened my use of media outlets. International news sources in English have become mainstays and offer a wide-range of perspectives: Al-Jazeera (Middle East), RT (Russian Television), France24, NDTV (India) and Der Spiegel (Germany).
Discussion of ideology and language games — rather than academic exercises for class assignments — have become table-talk. Through these experiences, it became apparent how much of the mainstream American news is filtered through very particular ways of seeing the world, and by proxy, how much our perspectives are managed.
Like many unexpected twists, “changing channels” had unexpected positive outcomes. As my views began to change so did my class selections. Focusing more on philosophy allowed time to explore different outlooks and engage in new conversations. With the passage of time, my circle of friends has slowly evolved and the nature of the relationships have changed, talking more about politics, cultural criticism, and philosophy. You never do know quite where the road will take you.
Changing the channel just might be the start of something much larger.
Kit Kelchner is a philosophy and health sciences major in his senior year.
Kelchner’s Indispensable Links
Naked Capitalism — Yves Smith’s blog of financial/political news and analysis
Al Jazeera Englist — English version of Qatar’s independent-minded, 24-hour global news source.
Alternet.com — Eclectic, nonprofit hub for alternative news and opinion