Media Obesity

I find myself consuming far more than I produce. We live in a world, or a nation at least, of constant intake. It would be interesting to personally figure out how much time I (not a statistical model of me) spend looking at the television screen watching movies, TV shows, reading blogs or books, playing games. You could even boil it down to how much time do I spend in front of a screen. In fact, as I write, I am watching Caprica on the screen behind the screen on which I am typing.

I wake in the morning and open a laptop screen on which I can spend upwards of an hour or two reading about what other people are doing: retro video game decorations for your bedroom, game design articles, video processing algorithms, insurgent militia actions in the Middle East, death squads in Dubai, using the telephone wires in your home to make a whole-house stereo system, geeky comics about math and computers, finding movies to watch online. Since I work during the day and have a 3-month old in the house, my time in the morning is pretty much the only time I have to pursue my personal dreams and interests (and that time will become increasingly more valuable and precious as my family grows). Yet I spend ALL THAT TIME consuming other people’s ability to do, while letting mine languish in the lost time of an ever-increasing digital diet. I suffer from media obesity.

Taking in more calories than you burn will cause your body to become soft. Does consuming more content than you produce make your brain soft?

I hate those people that tell me that television shows are pointless or movies a waste of time, I don’t believe that at all. If I spend my time ingesting a lot of junk-food content, however, I essentially fill up faster on empty calories. I remember listening to an interview with director Edgar Wright of Shuan of the Dead fame (I believe it was The Treatment on NPR, or some such program). He said he had to give up playing video games because he found if he played video games, he did not have the time to write and make movies. I first heard the interview, I felt scandalized. My whole post-graduate education was centered around video games, and here was this movie guy saying they were a waste of time. But I think on first blush I was wrong. He is not saying video games are inherently evil or destructive to your psyche, merely making an observation on how his time was used and affected by other media. Being conscious of the decisions I make regarding what I watch and do, and reflect on how they affect me.

When I say produce, I don’t mean you have to go out and make movies or write books for other people to consume. Each moment of the day allows us to create and to direct our lives. Each moment is a moment that allows us to produce something, to create an experience. We can rely on the experiences created by others, or we can create our own experiences. Whether that involves writing your own game or playing with your kids, it is our decision how we craft each moment. Again, I am not saying to become an ascetic and eschew all things in the media, but from one who all to frequently binges on a diet rich in content, we what moments we choose to produce.

I have four screenplays that will make fantastic motion-pictures. I have three flash games ready to be coded. I have a novel way for visualizing forensic crime scene reports using gaming technology. But they never get made. They sit and wait while I read yet another post on Geekologie and Lifehacker. There is so much out there for me to see and consume, at some point, I have to say no. Like the guy in Network “I’m as mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

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