MEDIA OVERLOAD OR OVERLORD?

 

How the New Media Age is Defined by Creators, Not Consumers.

On a typical day, I wake up to a buzzing alarm on my cell phone – snooze. I roll over and the alarm sounds again – snooze. Before I can put my head back down, the alarm screams yet again. So, feeling defeated, I reach for my phone to turn off the alarm along with the next five alarms set as a fail-safe. With my phone already in hand, I check for notifications, then email and social media. Something inevitably piques my interest, so I mindlessly follow the links down the rabbit hole. Before I even have a thought for myself, I'm compelled to check for input. How unoriginal. 

My name is Tommy Porter and I’m a “media consumptionist.” I'm not an ordinary consumer. I'm a junkie for the digital age - obsessed with bits not atoms. I have a constant, itching desire to consume information.

There are two types of people in the media landscape: creators and consumers. Content (i.e. information) is the lifeblood. Consumers, the vast majority, are those reading, listening, watching, and interacting with content. Creators, on the other hand, are those defining culture, entertaining others, and expressing themselves by making and remixing content.

I was born creative (everyone is) and nurtured my creativity through various outlets (in part as a film student), but ultimately jeopardized it all (by going to law school). As life became routine and work became tedious, the redundancy of the daily grind was cancerous to my creativity and motivation to create. I was no longer contributing to the cultural conversation. My life transitioned from being a participant in the world to a bystander of time. I wanted to create, but not until I consumed. Consumption was my crutch. As I consumed, I got distracted from my initial intention. Once a creator, I became nothing but a consumer.

Consumptionists like me also become information hoarders. It's impossible not to be when the world's information is at your fingertips. I still have a seemingly infinite backlog of content in every type of media: the accumulation of unread books, the constant delivery of my favorite magazines, the saved internet articles on Instapaper, the snowballing Netflix queue, the revolving television DVR, the flood of emails, and the endless stream of social media feeds. And that's just the backlog! Not to mention that new content is released every day. It goes on and on. Like clockwork. It's overwhelming. 

Sometimes, I just feel like:

"It's like wi-fi but for thoughts. Now you can let go of all your electronic devices and just be free in your mind."

Portlandia's "Technology Loop"

It's like an endless hamster wheel trying to "catch up" with information. There was a constant feeling of guilt that I just couldn't keep up with everything I wanted to digest. Whether it’s FOMO (fear of missing out), or what Douglas Rushkoff calls “Present Shock”, the always-on, real-time nature of mobile/social media made me reactive. My thoughts, mood, and focus were just reactions to technological and media stimuli. Attention deficit is no longer a disorder, it's now the collective unconscious. We live in a world now defined by media. Social media has become so ubiquitous that all media is now social and our social lives are now media. We are the product, so we might as well market ourselves. If you don't create your own brand, you will be branded.

So how can I return to the creator in me?

There are many ways to be more conscious in your consumption. Clay Johnson's The Information Diet and Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Workweek have numerous suggestions to avoid distractions and be most productive. I could go cold turkey or wane off the drugs of information overload, but the problem is that more often than not I don’t feel lost in the abyss of information. I truly enjoy reading good books, watching quality movies, and learning new ideas. There just has to be a balance of input versus output!

There are also many ways to inspire creativity. Tom Kelley and David Kelley's Creative Confidence and Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From are great examples. However, these suggestions seem counter-intuitive. Seeking inspiration through media, like everything else, can be just another distraction and continue the vicious cycle of the technology loop. Inspiration without action is pointless.

So I've built up some courage. I've stopped looking externally (or am at least trying to find a balance). If I have something to say it will come from within. I discovered that you really have to reflect internally to create. A little bit of focus helps too. 

So stop reading this right now. Go out and create! 

Share your ideas, whatever it is that excites you.