MORNING COFFEE 11 - junkie see junkie do

by Susan Weber

I've toned down my news consumption since January. It's working out well.

That the media's an ad driven enterprise is a given. Conflict, violence, and lurid details sell. Ditto the de-nuanced rifts in a polarized electorate. But hefty daily doses of hyperbole exhaust the mind. I heard somewhere that TV ad makers pack a thirty second slot with bright, blinking, overblown content to short out consumers' critical thinking circuitry. After the onslaught, we the viewers are meant to recall the brand with a visceral, “I want that.” The news packs its punch with chaos, cads and spurious behavior. “I want that too!” we gasp, groping for the next salacious tidbit.

Certainly we're hungry for enlightenment. But news gluttony is not remotely nourishing. Now that I listen to a daily podcast that calmly savors the course of human events, I have to say I never feel bloated.

I do notice my attention span expanding. However shriveled by the news-delivery devices, our ability to focus is retrievable when we extinguish the hype. Reading books is altogether doable again. The media buzz, including social media, activates our instant gratification reflex. This is antithetical to the slow climb to climax in a well told tale. Think speed dating. Now think Dostoyevski. Lahiri. Morrison. Twain. Relationships with this crowd are worth the wait.

The best side effect of portion controlled media consumption is ideas. We all have them, but sometimes, encouraged by the mob, we sort them into too small categories (good, bad, sacred, pointless, dumb) before they get to grow up and make friends with other ideas that let us make friends with ourselves. The propaganda class has ulterior motives (say money, ego, power) to squelch ambition and imagination. Switching off the messaging is an act of artful self-preservation.

Libraries, galleries, theaters, and pubs offer alternatives. The best of them invite reflection, leaving our inventiveness intact.

Photo by Alchemist-hp CC BY-NC-ND 3.0