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.