Managing Media Consumption

I have often filled the idle moments of my day with a steady stream of incoherent digital stimuli that have left me feeling empty and useless. This is because my attention is being focused on things that I do not care about or enjoy. This damages my schoolwork, but more importantly to me, it hurts my creativity.

This makes my reality beyond screens less interesting. The details of stories that I imagine in spare moments are like a quiet voice in a crowd. I need to kick the crowd out of my mind and curate it, like an art gallery. I must pick the pieces that I care about most and give my attention to them- intentionally.

I do this by thinking- no music, no podcast, no movie playing in the background and not even a book in front of me while I am eating a bowl of cereal. I have by no means mastered this, but in my bouts of digital sobriety I have felt the positive effects.

One example of these benefits is the return of my ability to concentrate on and enjoy reading. As a middle schooler, before I was constantly on screens, I was truly a reader. It was effortless. I can recall afternoons where I did nothing but read- and I enjoyed it. I have missed reading like this. Recently I have truly enjoyed reading and am actually engrossed in a book again. This is in no small part due to my intentionality and awareness with the entertainment I consume. Before this I would assume subconsciously that reading was inherently less exciting than screen-related activities, but by cultivating awareness in quiet moments, I know I enjoy reading, I am more likely to read, and when I read I am reminded how much I enjoy it.

The mistake I tend to make is to assume that this is an all or nothing battle, which leads me to a spiral of guilt once I fail to meet whatever goal I set. This unhealthy mindset brings me back to numbing my failure with even more distractions. Luckily, this “all or nothing idea” is not true.

Every moment I spend looking at sunlight on the trees or imagining what the daily life of an ant must be like is a decisive and powerful victory. This can be boring, but boredom is my friend. In boredom I have discovered more about myself and my life than I ever have in the vacuous cosmos of the youtube recommended page. The ironic thing is dull moments water the seeds of ideas in my subconscious and ignite my mind like no moment of complacent stimulation ever could.

I think the solution to my content consumption problems may begin with nothing more than recognizing what I pay attention to. If I loved the things I am paying attention to, even for a moment, I have succeeded! I am constantly discovering where I have allowed my attention to be taken by things I don’t remember watching or make my mind numb, but all this indicates is my awareness is growing.