In an ideal world, I would get up every morning with a print newspaper delivered outside my dorm room’s door and I would devour every page, including the crossword puzzle.
My media consumption goes more like this: it’s Saturday morning. I wake up, not quite ready to embrace the day and instead grab my phone to help me ease into full consciousness. I open the Instagram app, check my notifications and scroll through my feed. I scroll through my Facebook feed of cat videos, political memes, local and national news headlines and misguided posts from friends. I read over the messages from my hall’s group chat on GroupMe but I rarely check or update Twitter and LinkedIn and always forget about the actual Apple news app. I check my personal email for daily automated notifications of article links from the New York Times, Huffington Post, ProPublica and the Atlantic but rarely take the time to read past the headlines and accompanying one-sentence blurbs. While working on my homework during the remainder of the day, I allow for my homework focus to be interrupted by notifications from friends back home, the occasional Whatsapp memo from friends abroad, random articles about the presidential election, hyperlink upon hyperlink. Once I wind down for the evening, I pull up Netflix on my computer to watch an episode or two of Friends.
My media usage is driven by the connecting aspect of social media, a gateway vehicle for discovery of information that requires little effort or research on my part. I often feel hypocritical for pursuing a career in journalism and yet not prioritizing my news intake with the Wall Street Journal or USA Today. Entertainment media is a relative term for me because I find just as much entertainment in political debates as I do Saturday Night Live skits. Essentially, all media serves a purpose to entertain and if I spend my free time consuming it, it qualifies. I am just as guilty as anyone else in that it dominates my informational media intake.“All culture is a conversation or, more precisely, a corporation of conversations." - Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death
What is that corporation that structures and facilitates this dialogue? Social media. And from where does this dialogue originate? Human interaction.
It is this concept, the source as human interaction, that democratizes the media aspect of public discourse through social media. My usage of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and other social media removes the fourth wall of traditional media consumption because I am able to directly interact with the sources of the information. If my best friend posts a picture with her dog on Instagram, I can comment and tell her how cute they look. If a celebrity posts something controversial on Facebook, I can seek out his/her public relations staff for a quote through a direct message or easily engage with others about the topic in the comments section.
However, this concept of democratic media can negatively impact my personal media attention. I pay attention to human interest stories and some political headlines, but steer clear of economic reports. This is due to my associated knowledge and experience: I seek out media information for which I already have a contextual backdrop. The breakdown of the issue is that a) so much information exists that it is easy to either get stuck in one corner and lose perspective (as I have with news coverage) or barely skim the surface of too many stories (as I have with social media outlets) and b) once I am enlightened, what do I do with that awareness? As an aspiring journalist, I value the truth-telling role as the primary goal for my career, but, from personal experience, this leads me to question if all of my readers and consumers will view the media that I produce in the same way.
The relationship between media production and consumption is especially relevant to the nature of today's political discourse and the anti-establishment rhetoric that media "is" inherently biased (in quotations because of the misinformed idea that "the media" is one grand, conspiring political entity instead of a diverse group of forms and perspectives across the spectrum). It brings to question whether or not all media are mirrored spectacles. Are our lives today too trivial and this is what is reflected by media or does today’s media perpetuate trivial matters and thus our lives adopt surface-level interpretations? These questions are important for any informed reader to be intentional about both input and output. In the world of social media today, as the output level becomes increasingly significant, I can only seek to contribute something relevant to the dialogue.