There are facts that are quantifiable and facts that are intuited. These are the quantifiable facts:
As of the first quarter of 2016, U.S. adults spent 10 hours, 39 minutes a day consuming media, which represents a year-over-year increase of one hour.
The increase in media consumption is due largely to smartphone and tablet use. Smartphone use rose an average of 37 minutes, while tablet use saw an increase of 12 minutes.
Half of all “U.S. TV households” (whatever that means) now have access to at least one subscription video service.
72 percent of homes have either DVR or a subscription video service, which represents an increase of 67 percent from the previous year. (Source)
Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, cable television—we are consuming more and more media. The Food Network describes the flavors of escargot, or Kobe beef, or the putrid durian fruit. The Travel Channel shares the breathtaking beauty of the Amalfi Coast, the way it sparkles in the setting sun. AMC gives us the rotting undead, the smell of fear stalking. ESPN gives us an endless supply of heart-pumping action, clip after clip after clip. We touch the keys, the remote, the tablet, and cycle through it all. This is the world made virtual, made pocket-sized, made ownable.
And what is the world if not experienced through digital media? Does it exist? (If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to record it and post it to YouTube, did it leave a mark?)
Here is the truth experienced: in my own consumption of media, I have become lazy to my senses. What does it mean to taste, touch, hear, smell, or see without the interpretive lens of media? What does it mean to live an organic experience, to see and recognize the shape of our own shadows? And how hard would it be to return to that kind of existence?
Yesterday, I tapped the keys on my smartphone, sent a text message to my friends John and Winn. We were discussing the growing disillusionment with social media (as opposed to media in general), and I texted this:
I think people have this sense that what’s happening [across media] is bad for the soul. They want to quit. But [media] is like heroin. It gets in your veins. And then, how do you get it out?
How do you detox? How do you break from the virtual to experience the real? How do you reimagine what it means to be human instead of half-man-half-media cyborg? And if you manage to pull the plug on your machine side, will you experience the seizures of withdrawal? Will the shakes set in? Is detox even possible?
This isn’t a piece about solutions, about blazing paths forward or making promises none of us can keep. This is simply a recognition of the truth of our present intoxication. This is a piece meant to ask a simple question: how do we awaken to the possibility of more organic, sensorial expression of living?
*Speaking of detox, my book, Coming Clean, is only $1.99 on Kindle and Nook this week. Grab a copy and let me know. I’ll send you a link to a 30 day Coming Clean email journal leading you through the book and into your own experience of coming clean.
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