The crippling overabundance of media

Media has grasped control of my life from me in the past few months. Case and point: I’m sitting here, trying to figure out how to start this post, frustratedly deleting trite openings. Meanwhile, my mind wanders to all the anime, films, games, music, online videos, social media, and other miscellaneous media outlets that are constantly vying for my undivided attention.

Can I double them up? I could play an arcade-esque game on low volume while listening to YouTube in the background. Or perhaps I should spin some tunes while browsing Twitter and forums I frequent. But then what about anime? What about narrative-driven games? Heck, what about the blog? I feel guilty not producing more frequent content while simultaneously needing to consume all of that media in order to be able to do it. Where’s the balance? How do I make the right choices that will lead to the most worthwhile content, like watching seasonal anime to maintain a speck of relevancy amongst my contemporaries? Or should I just take the edge off and do something completely separated from my writing, such as playing in the latest limited-run Overwatch event? This isn’t even to mention the real life obligations, be they work, friends, family, errands, concerts, or simply going out for a walk to keep myself from becoming Lain.

Confronted with this barrage of choice, I shut down. I become depressed. I just want to sleep, the only way to momentarily escape from the stress of what’s not getting done. Soon, my waking hours become a nightmare of ennui. Getting my body over to the couch to watch something feels akin to running a marathon, and forced writing sessions become an exercise in staring at a blank screen, hoping in vain that words will formulate. All of this fuels the vicious cycle of unproductivity.

There’s a misconception that creatives are at their best when in the throws of depression. It plays into the fantasy of the tortured soul funneling their demons into a masterpiece, something our pop culture has romanticized into sex appeal. Well, there’s nothing sexy or even remotely true about it. The notion runs counter to the debilitating nature of depression. This is to say that depression doesn’t lead to better work getting done but rather no work at all. You recede within yourself emotionally, consolidate yourself to an enclosed space and become listless. For me it often means slipping into bed, eyes glued to my laptop as I watch mindless YouTube videos (aka politics) to distract myself from the responsibilities I’m eschewing. It’s destructiveness via an inability to do anything. Even the things you love to do most become a burden, thus you deny yourself the things that bring you joy.

I’m saying all this with the caveat that my recent lack of media intake and content output has been greatly due to the busyness of my current life. It’s not unhinged depression. However, the stress of the burden that the excess of entertainment options available to me presents causes a similar effect nonetheless. When trying to decide whether I play Persona 5 or watch an anime series, and whether I then watch a current series or a weird old one that nobody will click on a post about, I enter mental gridlock. Further, there are people in my life pushing me to do each of these things and it thus becomes internalized as more than just a personal choice; I feel as if I’m letting friends or fans down whichever way I slice it. As such, doing the things I love starts to feel like a lose-lose situation. The act of consuming entertainment starts to feel like tasks, things I have to do. And while writing about anime in a professional environment certainly invites an element of this, having it be the overwhelming emotion involved is both unproductive and unhealthy. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching anime, playing games, listening to music… you name it. But when they feel obligations– and like “losses”– I abstain. It’s not even that I won’t enjoy these things once I engage with them– in fact I probably will– but the battle is getting myself there.

After writing all this I’m beginning to question whether it’s even healthy to consume the amount of media I’ve described. Actually, it’s something that’s been at the forefront of my mind since listening to this track from Father John Misty’s recent album:

Have we become so inundated with media that we can’t escape it? Are we going to lose touch with reality, to “[bed] Taylor Swift every night inside the Oculus Rift”? Do we risk becoming a “race of demented monkeys” that have evolved “from a cave to a city to a permanent party”? Is a permanent party actually fun? Where’s the fun in permanence?

What Josh Tillman is saying is that the over-saturation of entertainment in our culture has the potential to control our lives if we aren’t careful. These fantastical worlds are often favorable to our own (especially these days). If we too easily give in then what humanity do we have left?

Maybe that’s my struggle here. I’ll restate my opening sentence: Media has grasped control of my life from me in the past few months. I could sit here being entertained for the rest of my life, no sleep involved, and I’d die without having consumed everything I would want to. It’s a possibility! I spend most of my time in my apartment as-is. My meaningful in-person interactions are incredibly few and always short-lived. I often feel isolated from the world. What am I filling that time with? It’s media. It’s stress over consuming media. It’s creating media, which is predicated on consuming media. If I’m outside for an extended period of time I have my headphones in through which I’m further consuming media. When am I not consuming or creating media? During some hours working for my uncle? During my 45-minutes-a-week (sometimes twice over) therapy? When I’m ordering a sandwich at the deli? When does the influx of media end? Is it even possible to stop at this point? Are we living the existential nightmare warned about in dystopian fiction? Is this what Serial Experiments Lain tried to warn us about? Do we even value our humanity anymore?

I ask that last question without judgement. I honestly don’t know what the value of humanity is as we venture deeper into the 21st century. Perhaps we’ve evolved from a social race to an antisocial one. Perhaps that’s the natural order of our existence. We’ve crafted fantasies that allow us to ignore the world as it burns around us. People in power around the globe care less and less about humanity and the rock on which it resides, that’s for sure. We’ve become a commodity. The masses have become increasingly unable to change the tide either, or at least that’s how it feels from my current perspective (of which is admittedly tied into the media I consume from the perch of my apartment, which literally and metaphorically overlooks a busy sidewalk below where I watch an influx of people and cars whisk by, all for the sake of my own voyeurism. People have become my media). Is escaping to our media a way to stave off inevitability or is it the thing preventing us from the truth? I flip between these equally nihilistic views on a daily basis.

I probably sound insane right now but I’m legitimately unsure, worried, and worried that I’m unsure. At the end of the day I’ll keep plugging away, watching my anime, playing my video games, listening to my music, going to my concerts, writing my blog posts, injecting my YouTube, drinking my alcohol, surfing my internet, falling off the surfboard and drowning because I don’t know how to swim anymore.

I’m not crazy. I swear it.

I think I’m human? Is the idea of “humanity” outdated?

I only have questions. I don’t have answers. I wish I did. I’m not a philosopher. I’m not a social scientist although I’d lead myself to believe I understand their rhetoric more than I do. I’m just a dude who consumes media and pontificates over it. Some people read it. I’m grateful for that. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude, especially for those who put up with my weirdness on Twitter of which I’m near the point of not even trying to hide it. And why should I try to hide it anymore? Again…

I’m not crazy.

I’m not crazy.

I’m not crazy.

25 thoughts on “The crippling overabundance of media

  1. Interesting thoughts. I had some similar ones during a blackout a while back. For the first hour I kind of didn’t know what to do and busied myself with odd jobs that had been piling up. Then as the power (and the internet) continued to be down I decided to read for a bit because my reading list was getting longer and longer. I wasn’t any more social or active than if I’d been sitting at my computer (arguably I was less social because I wasn’t communicating with anyone) but I kind of enjoyed the calmness of it and the absolute lack of distractions. Of course, I don’t really need a power outage to read a book, but it was nice not even having technological options for a short space.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s both brilliant and sad at the same time. A small bird landing awkwardly on a powerline can cut our whole town’s power for hours (slight exaggeration but power outages are pretty common and it takes a while for them to repair damage).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Adam Meadows

    You absolutely nailed it. Playtime has become stressful. Too many options. Most people go to jobs they hate to, in part, pay for the things to distract them for the fact they hate those jobs.

    It does often feel as those we’re essentially sold media to make us apathetic to real-world changes – things that, if we weren’t so distracted as a collective, could be dealt with by our sheer numbers.

    It’s fun to consume media about things you enjoy. Blog posts, videos, podcasts. But at times, it feels like people act like a glitch in a video game or the change of a protagonist (DmC) trigger the most profoundly disproportionate reactions in people. That terrifies me, because I had those reactions when I was younger.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep. Our reality is shaped by our online experiences, at least for many of us. I look at the world from my computer and say “well it’s all going to shit” without even stepping outside my door. Being part of the society is increasingly optional, and media is what facilitates that. It’s captivating to a fault. And the irony of it all is that I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I actually feel the same way a hell of a lot and it’s bloody crippling.

    Due to my incredibly long working hours of 8-5, 5 days a week, I barely get time to do anything by the time I get home and engage in my girlfriend and I’s daily night time ritual of Netflix + Dinner.

    My time to consume media/play video games is limited to around 5 hours per weekday and weekends, and when I finally do get to the moment in the day where I can do these things, I normally just sit there, unsure of what I should do or even if I should do it. That’s not even getting to blogging, which I tend to favour because it’s an opportunity to get my thoughts out there and gives me a sense of freedom from this “WHAT SHOULD I DO?” mind set. Even then, I don’t always find the time to do it, and it’s irritating.

    So, you’re not crazy. I feel you. I’m feeling it right now, actually. I can’t decide whether or not to finish Kill La Kill, or continue playing Dark Chronicle HD which I just bought yesterday. I have both up running right now, paused, and I’m just sitting here. Wallowing.

    AHHHH.

    Anyway… I really related to this post. It was great and really spoke to me since I suffer the same kind of issue. Daily. You’re not alone!

    I look forward to more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I know from your job that you’re interacting with media professionally all day which probably only fatigues you more.

      See, for me I need to be consuming media relevant to this blog or else, well, you get posts like this. I don’t want to be making these self-aggrandizing monstrosities all the time although I do enjoy the indulgence once in a while. Honestly, I didn’t even know where this would end up and it definitely hit upon points I didn’t know I’d be making early on. I think a part of it is that I have a really hard time remembering most things I’ve watched/played in the past. This means that unless I revisit the material it’s hard to write about those things, and besides they’re often no longer relevant. So I have to constantly be seeking out the latest and greatest, which I’m in the process of right now as I begin to dig into last season’s series.

      Oh, and I recommend finishing Kill la Kill. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely. Playing the same bloody game every day for 9 hours straight in a regressive manner really doesn’t help when it comes to engaging with other media during my downtime haha.

        I agree there. If I weren’t to consume my weekend dose of relevant blog content I’d either be doing posts like this all the time or I’d just not be blogging at all (which I don’t even want to consider!)

        I enjoy little rambles here and there, but I prefer to be doing other things most of time because… It feels nice I guess!

        For me, keeping up to date with the current stuff while also wanting to write about stuff I just want to write about/catch up with stuff from years ago is the biggest challenge, personally.

        And I’ll get on that for sure then!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The eternal conveyor belt of media is a difficulty for me too. According to my stats on database websites, I’ve spent somewhere in the region of four successive months of my life watching anime. Also according to these stats, I haven’t even watched 5% of all the anime there is to see. That percentage doesn’t even count time-to-watch, witch would likely make my percentage share even smaller when accounting for series like Doreamon and Sazae-San. Even if I argue that I know exactly what I want to watch, that list still includes more titles than I could reasonably watch in the next year, providing I could dedicate all my free time to it.

    I can’t even begin to account for films, shows and books and games that I have – or would like to – experience. So far in my life I’ve chosen to give the relatively little free time I have to movies and anime, which has subsequently left me with a small cabinets worth of games and books I’ve bought yet haven’t used. I can only imagine how it would look if it included the stuff I haven’t purchased but belong there all the same. I don’t regret being the movie-anime hobbyist that I’ve become, but I do lament the fact that I ‘neglect’ other interests as a consequence.

    It has effected my media consumption, as you say. I quickly parse though my youtube subscriptions to decide what might be worth my time, just in order to get me off the site faster, so that I can then spend more time on another distraction. I scroll rapidly up my twitter feed, trusting that my eyes are capable enough to skim tweets fast enough to catch the interesting bits. I even started playing games on easy mode at some point, not because I dislike difficulty, but because I see it as a time sink. Predictably I was once one of those ‘never drop’ anime watchers.

    Then with all these compensations, I still don’t have enough time. I’ve managed to keep up a quota of one blog post a month, yet having only a few thousand words to show from 650+ hours of daily living feels pathetic. It makes me actually hate working at the minute. Not to say everyone loves their job, but for me, being forced to spend my time on something that doesn’t directly further my passions completely kills all motivation. I wish I could quit to go full time with being this nebulous media guru thing but there isn’t much chance of that at the moment. Even then I have worries of burning out. If new stuff is always coming out and always in demand, what time does that leave for a break?

    The mental gridlock you mention is too relatable. Here I list off a thousand backlogs, yet have days which by my own admittance have been dedicated to compulsive Twitter browsing, because I had “nothing better to do” or “I couldn’t decide”. Makes me question what the right answer is to all of this. If a hermit can find fulfillment living off nature in the middle of nowhere, then I guess I don’t *need* any of the things I think I do, but saying that one-size-fits-all would be equally lacking in nuance.

    I’m not so much concerned about the anti-social elements at play, but that’s because I’ve only grown more social as time has passed. That doesn’t invalidate your concerns, although it might be reassuring to know that ‘humanity’ is still flourishing going forwards. Granted I’m not nearly as self-assured as people seem to think I am, but it’s not all an illusion either.

    End Note: I’ve been listening to Pure Comedy on & off for the past week or so and it grows on me with each repeat. I’ve been in a slump recently and the harrowing realism it evokes channels my need for catharsis.

    I’m crazy.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You basically wrote a full blog post here haha. This was a seriously great read.

      That’s an impressive amount of anime. I’m not nearly there (halfway to two months over three years I believe, so that’s not including all the stuff I watched as a kid or prior to three years ago), although when you couple all my media consumption together it’s pretty insane. I spent a collective three months of my life playing WoW over some years, and that’s one game. I’ve likely put 250-300 into Overwatch in a years time, as another example. That’s two games. Don’t even get me started on Hearthstone, both playing and watching a few content creators I like (I’m a Blizzard fanboy).

      When I think about how much of my life has been devoted to media consumption it’s fucking scary. It’s hard not to feel like you’ve wasted your life. My youth has mainly been spent by myself. Deep down I know I don’t have to be like other people but life is a one-and-done scenario. We don’t get a do-over. And I don’t want to live a solitary life forever. Yet it’s so hard to break out of the pattern. Maybe those fears will eventually manifest into willpower, or at least I hope so.

      I do have friends. I have a few in NYC who I see on occasion and don’t really talk to outside of that, and a lot that reside elsewhere in the world that I rarely if ever see but who I’m in touch with on a daily basis. It’s a weird dichotomy that is completely normal to me but likely batshit crazy to others and… I couldn’t blame them for feeling that. I don’t see myself as a normal person… but I also don’t value normality that highly. However, again, I do value social interactions and I want more of what is traditionally considered “a life.” A life outside my apartment and its immediate surroundings.

      “Nebulous media guru”… yeah, that’s basically me too. This was supposed to be an anime blog but it’s kinda become this place where I talk about ideas that can apply to any medium. I might lift that one from you. :p

      And yeah, Pure Comedy is pure gold. It’s not endlessly relistenable like Misty’s other two albums (Honeybear is probably in my top 10 of the decade although I haven’t made that list) and that initially had me wary of it, but upon further listens it works incredibly well as a music essay on the err of humanity. That probably doesn’t put me in the best headspace since I heavily internalize these things but hey, I’m a Josh fanboy. He’s right next to Kendrick as my favorite musicians of this decade. I basically want to be him.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I do tend to go overboard in the comment section. It’s why I usually stick to shitposting on Twitter,

        250 hours on Overwatch? Look at this amateur. I better not speak of the hours I’ve spent playing the SoulsBourne series. I’ll fall on my sword before I say that was wasted time, although everything else is fair game. I know for example I used to play multiplayer games for similar amounts of time, min/maxing and finding the best way to unlock upgrades, only for all that effort to be locked away in an online database that I will never open again. What about the anime I didn’t like, or the ‘phases’ I had that no longer hold value for me. I do crave a bit of permanency, which is likely why I hold tightly onto strong experiences like with Haruhi and Kill la Kill. It’s a hard thing to guarantee though.

        My situation is not too different from yours. I have real life friends, but I don’t see them very often (but arguably because I don’t want to) which makes social media interactions with people from around the world my ‘real’ interpersonal circle. I am content with that though. I figure if online users treat me better than face-to-face encounters in my everyday life then I can’t exactly call them inadequate or antisocial. I also get to be myself more often when put in an environment founded on shared interests, which is a big plus.

        Considering the first pieces I read from you were about an 80’s film, the Oscars and idol groups, I think your plan to be anime only collapsed on the second day. I eagerly await your terminal evolution into a nihilistic apocalypse-heralding musician.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Amari Sali

    I think I know how Robert Flack’s character feels now in “Killing Me Softly.” Many times I have come to the point where I wrote because it was habit and not something I loved anymore. Then when dealing with actual people, I made comparisons and tried to push these fantasies and ideas which came from media into reality. Just to be disappointed when I couldn’t achieve that sitcom best friend or romantic movie partner.

    I mean, even with a day job and having to deal with real people, that need for escape becomes like a new home. Making it honestly feel like reality is the fantasy world you are not necessarily escaping from but being exiled to. Like a kid with old school parents who tell you every day to go play outside, get some fresh air.

    Long story short, awesome read dude. Very relatable on multiple points.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hmm this sounds like a mix of too much media out there, paralyzing perfectionistic demands on your own work, a feeling of need to generate output for the followers, and being uninterested in IRL stuff going on.

    Yeah I can resonate with that. That’s the reason for my sporadic output: I’ve resigned myself to the fact that trying to put out content regularly will add more stress than it’s worth. That hasn’t stopped me from compulsively browsing this circle of the aniTwitter/aniBlog community though.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “It’s not unhinged depression. However, the stress of the burden that the excess of entertainment options available to me presents causes a similar effect nonetheless. ”

    I’m…I’m worried. I hope everything is okay Thoughts…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is, it is! While I’m being genuine in my expression of emotion here, I’m a pretty happy person on the whole right now. That’s not to say I don’t have my struggles but I’m not wrapped up in my own existentialism/nihilism that I present here. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I empathize with this post so much. So much is dominated by technology, by media, that it can be overwhelming; suffocating. And even the interactions you can manage to get with other people are infiltrated by wired distractions; scrolling through feeds, glancing at apps or texting someone back real quick, all while missing the actual human being you is sitting right across from you, desiring your attention. Yet so often, in a world so terrifying at the moment, media becomes our only form of escape. Yet when *that* becomes a burden, when that becomes overwhelming, when that becomes another task on the To-Do list, another expectation to be met, where else are we meant to turn to? In a world dominated by media, how do we escape it?

    You raise some brilliant questions and unfortunately, I don’t think any answers. Books (paperbacks) and nature I think are my go-to escapes. Or lunch dates with a friend, especially after my streak of staying alone in my apartment grows longer than my time spent with another human being. My advice is to search and find what works for you and to never stop searching for what makes you whole, what makes you feel alive, what makes you feel happy. But I do know this:

    You are not crazy.

    You are not crazy.

    You are not crazy.

    You’re just living in a world that everyone struggles to navigate and, at the end of the day, we all feel a little crazy and we’re all a little bit weird. But that’s okay, because we continue on, despite.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First off, beautifully written response! We seem to be on the same wavelength here, and you’re right, there probably aren’t any real answers to these questions. One could claim to have them but they’d contradict with the next person’s answers and who could possibly be right? The human condition can be debated into the ground but it’s nothing more than philosophizing over grey areas. We as a species just don’t know.

      Like

      1. Thank you! It was a fantastic post. I do think, though, that even though there probably aren’t any real answers, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to chase after any sort of answers that we can find. That doesn’t mean that we’ll ever find any definitive “answers”. I think not knowing is totally okay an should be embraced. Yet I’m a big believer that we should always strive for happiness. And I hope you’re able to not only search for it, both through media and away from it, but that you also find it. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. hnil4

    This post is somewhat eye opening for me; not to be too dramatic. When asked for suggestions on things to watch/play/read, I’m that person who’ll rattle off 20 titles and now I realize that may not be helpful for the person asking.

    Your writing has helped me understand why I find some things less fun than I feel they should be. It’s also reassuring to see other people reply with similar experiences.

    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. It’s weird to comment on a post like this, because I know on some level that writing some thoughts in response just further adds to the deluge of media already out there. There’s too much media demanding too much of everyone’s collective time. With social pressures on all sides asking you to consume the latest media and the older classics, the paralysis of indecision begins to set in.

    I’m sitting here repeating and agreeing with parts of the post in an attempt to get the paragraph to a place where I can just say something like “I’ve been there and I feel like I found a way out” or “my solution was to study my consumption habits from a distance by analyzing the objective data before cutting back harshly on the media I was consuming solely because I felt like I ‘had to’ socially.” even as I find myself thinking that those might not necessarily be helpful responses. Oh god, this paragraph’s a mess.

    But now I’ve gotten through that tortured transition, so I’ll say that it feels to me that the problem is less that there’s too much media to consume — we all know at some level that 400 hours of video are uploaded to Youtube every minute and that we’ll be dead long before we could consume even the good .001% of that — but more that there’s more media that we feel socially pressured to consume. This seems to be where the problem is buried, based on that “there are people in my life pushing me to do each of these things and it thus becomes internalized as more than just a personal choice; I feel as if I’m letting friends or fans down whichever way I slice it.” section of the post.

    Having reframed the problem from being a problem of fitting a quantity into a time to being a problem of social pressures, we can maybe start to look for a solution. We can safely say that it’s impossible to consume all the media that friends and fans want you to consume, if for no other reason than because a recommendation takes less time than consuming that piece of media. Knowing that, it feels obvious to me to say that you shouldn’t feel like you’re letting anybody down by not doing the impossible. Consume the media you want because you want to consume it. I feel like I’m being unhelpful by saying that, but it’s the only way I can phrase the sentiment I’m trying to get across. That sentiment is that there are varying degrees and kinds of enjoyment, and that’s obvious and words seem to be failing me right now.

    Because words are failing me, I’m going to drop the personal/analytical self-deprecating gonzo persona for a moment and say this instead: Fuck the fans. Fuck what people say you should be watching/consuming. You’re not letting anybody down by not watching or playing something. It’s okay to just say you’re less interested in one piece of media than another. It’s okay to say you’re less interested in one genre of media than another. Nobody will seriously hold that against you.

    People haven’t evolved into being antisocial creatures, nor have they evolved into being asocial ones. Presumably the reason you’re consuming so much media is to be part of the conversation surrounding it, yeah? That’s a more damning indicator that people are social creatures than anything else. Sure, you’re leaving your room less, but you’re still trying to interact with other people, right?

    Next: people in power have never cared about humanity as a whole, and that’s never changed. They’ve always seen people as commodities. Fuck ’em. The masses aren’t less able to change the tide of politics, but they are less willing to. Escaping to media is neither a means to stave off inevitability, nor is it the thing preventing us from seeing the truth. Media is a fun thing that’s always existed off to the side, and of which some people find more value in than others.

    Next: you don’t sound insane, you sound confused with a bit of hopelessness mixed in. You’re not crazy. Your thoughts are pretty easy to follow, and you come across coherently and intelligibly. You’re fine.

    Liked by 1 person

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