Okay. This half of the assignment is ridiculous. Like, I had no idea how hard it would be until I actually did it. Teenagers are addicted to media. Scratch that. Everyone is addicted. My parents and grandparents might not know how to work any electronics more advanced than a VCR, but they like their media. Books are media, radio is media, anything short of sitting in a corner staring at a wall is media. I know this now. From experience.
As I’ve said before, TV is my constant background noise, more for comfort than to actually watch. Keeping it off, especially at night, was just plain spooky. Every noise is amplified, and taking a shower is out of the question, as a knife-wielding cross-dresser might cram himself into my tiny dorm bathroom and stab me to death. Music, radio, any other noises that might cushion the depressing and slightly horrifying silence: in the words of New York Italians, fuhguddaboutit.
I was doomed from the start, truthfully. Between the fact that almost all my decorations are ads and the fact that this college is Billboard City, there was no way I could avoid it. WTMD plays all the time in Paws and Newell, and other local stations, usually weepy country ones, play in the Glen. And unless I plan to fail my Psych and Public Speaking classes, I have to get on the computer for research–and ads assault me on the homepage.
I talked myself into believing that texting is not mass media. It was an act of desperation.
Me: Texting, well, it’s the same as talking to someone in person, right? Except you can’t see their face. Or hear their voice. And that it uses a major form of mass communication He. Hehe.
Returning to the idea of addiction, there are studies that show texting is an honest-to-god disorder. I have friends that will refuse to speak on the phone with me if their favorite show is on. And me, as my two-day study showed, I have Facebook up just about all the time. It’s insane!
Finally, I think I should mention that I was not that great at this project. I felt jittery and disconnected, and broke down pretty quickly. But I really did try. And it honestly made me think about society as a whole. This isn’t a Maryland trait, or an American one. Any first-world country in the world is obsessed with mass media. We in the United States may think we have the monopoly on rapid technology, but that isn’t the case at all. And use of this technology proves it–we can connect to friends in Japan or business associates in Saudi Arabia in a heartbeat. So why turn down the opportunity? And soon, it’s all-consuming.
I promise you, I knew I was a Facebook junkie before I was ever given this assignment. Even if I’m not actually doing anything, like creating a status or reading those of others or, I dunno, deleting all the FarmVille requests people send me, thinking that as a college student with a 15-credit load, I must not have anything better to do than grow virtual blueberries. But that’s just it. I have Facebook up all the time, even if I am not an active presence. I am still a presence. I’m online roughly six hours a day, usually doing homework or watching TV or playing video games or talking on the phone at the same time, but still. The computer is not off. I still have some of my brain focused on the computer.
TV, too–it’s on if I’m in my dorm. Again, I’m not usually glued to the screen. (That’s only if a new No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain is on, or Criminal Minds.) But I need some background noise, especially if I’m alone. It’s just creepy otherwise.Maybe if I had grown up in an age where one could feel sufficiently entertained by embroidering doilies, well, it wouldn’t ook me out so much. But this is, as author Chuck Palahniuk has pointed out, a quiet-phobic culture. The constant white noise of mass media keeps us feeling safe.
During my two days recording media exposure, I’d gone to Taste of Towson and the Study Abroad fair. I hadn’t really planned on making the days I went to these my exposure days, but that’s just how things worked out. Taste of Towson was just a massive advertisement. All the local resturants wanted to share their culture and business with the Towson students, which meant free notepads and keychains and samples. In exchange for a 10 cent pen, Dunkin Donuts and Qdoba could get hundreds of dollars in business.
The college is the perfect place to advertise. The Monster and Rock Star energy drink trucks always seem to be hanging around the Union, ready to give away samples. There are more billboards here than in all the high schools back in my home county put together–and more than that, people actually read them. They tear off the little phone numbers and, well, put the information they got to some use. Even among student clubs, chalk talks. Every orginzation spreads the word via sidewalk. I know. I helped them.
But plenty of mass media I saw and used was imported. I brought my iPod and plenty of books from home. I love to read David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs when I have nothing else to do, I have a Youtube account specifically to collect my favorite videos (like ‘Puttin on the Ritz’ from Young Frankenstein) so I can share them with my friends at a moment’s notice. Even over my bed, all the pictures I brought from home–they all seem to be ads starring my favorite bands and stars. So there are mass media assaults on my brain THE MOMENT I WAKE UP.
Big Brother is watching, indeed.
Started a WordPress to blog for Mass Communications.