Media Diet Reflection

Digital media is a part of me. Or so I have always thought. Wake up, check texts, emails, Facebook, twitter, and Instagram. All in the comfort of my bed, in the palm of my hand, before the hour of 10 am. Even as I write this sentence, I have paused to return to a Facebook chat that I had going from previously in the day with a friend. Social media and the internet is a place where I, along with most people my age, live my life and spend a substantial portion of my day. To my parents generation, who were in college before there were cell phones or wifi, my behavior is self absorbed and destructive; a means of procrastination when I should be focusing on the “real world” and living my “actual life”. Both of my parents have Facebook accounts and do use social media is small amounts, they log on once or twice a day to check in with friends and relatives, but it stops there.

To the older generations today, social media is a tool of simple communication and information – a practical necessity. For my generation, it’s an integral part of life. The world on the internet has been and continues to be a fantastic and beneficial tool to me, one of which I have learned through this project needs to be used constructively with some restraint to be able to enjoy it to the fullest.

On one hand, there are those individuals who taint media for us all. Those who feel the need to post hundreds of status’, tweets, photos, etc. of their each activity and are not contributing to the “digital sphere” online in any real constructive way. Luckily though, there is so much more to media that I enjoy that goes beyond just the surface-level status posters that I have found to be fulfilling. The digital world is a place for connecting and expressing and it is for those reasons that I keep coming back, my media diet project helped me recognize that fact.

Scrolling through my instagram feed depicts the exact reason why I support fully living in this saturated digital age. As I roll through the many images on the app I see posts from inspiring women whom I follow working in comedy, sports, fashion, and music. I see some of my favorite brands like Free People and Madewell whose digital marketing strategies online have won them numerous awards. I am filled with joy at funny photos of rescued dogs in new york city who have famous instagram accounts documenting their happy daily actives around the city. I read lengthy captions on posts from NatGeo and Humans of NY that take me to new cities and cultures that I never knew existed and hope to visit one day. On top of all of these different perspectives, sources of insight, and personalities that I don’t personally know, I also have the numerous friends I follow on instagram (the original reason I downloaded the app). I can keep up with friends from high school who live on the other side of the country via their recent photos. I can scroll through my sorority page’s feed and appreciate the women that I am so proud to be associated with and the work they are doing in the campus and community. Instagram can be so positive, though sometimes addicting, and can open eyes to an even bigger world than experienced in our daily “real lives”.

Instagram isn’t the only place of which I have found positive reinforcement through media. Reading articles on Thought Catalog for example, can be uplifting and encouraging, giving advice and opinion on topics like religion, sex, travel, and motherhood. I also spend time on pinterest (I am an avid self proclaimed foodie) where, as someone who loves cooking, I can find thousands of new and exciting recipes that I cook with my roommates and friends. Further, I frequently use a favorite app of mine, “Stop, Breathe and Think” as a meditation aid every night to help me find calmness before bed and sleep soundly. These media are only a small part of the digital world but they truly enhances my life and helps me live in “the real world” even better.

This project however, though helping me identify the places online that bring me the most fulfillment, has also helped me identify how harmful my constant online presence can be. Facebook is a major culprit. I applaud Facebook for being a leader in the past 5 years, completely changing the way we connect online and revolutionizing social media. However, in my own life online I think it is the worst for me and yet one of the sites I visit most often. I can spend an entire class period scrolling through the sea of images, status’, links, and events. Further than just being a waste of time, Facebook has the ability to make me feel left out, lonely, and insignificant. It has its purposes in connecting and spreading information, but Facebook is a place I live online that I have now decided to spend far less time on. It is through the Facebook example that I realized the negative sides of online media. By removing myself from using Facebook during class and before bed for this project, I started to feel a lot better during the day. When I woke up I checked it, checking in to see what happened over night, and then only used it later on in the day when I was in transit or killing time. I was able to focus in my classes so much more effectively and found myself feeling much more engaged. Also, not using my computer before bed helped me sleep better and feel more relaxed. Technology can be so incredibly useful, and it’s always going to be a part of my life, but by analyzing which forms of technology, which digital spaces, really benefitted me the most (and conversely, which were hurting me) helped me decide where to spend my time online.

Beyond the different forms of social media, I am lucky enough to get to have a job that engages me online and lets me find a creative outlet. For that I am truly grateful to the internet. For my internship this semester I am interning for one of my role models and a mentor of mine, Jess Keys, who is a popular Chicago based lifestyle and fashion blogger for The Golden Girl Blog. She quit her job as an ad executive last year to be a full time blogger and as her intern I essentially help her be successful online. Whether its spending time working on her instagram, tweeting her recent posts, or writing actual content for the blog I have done a little bit of everything for my digitally savvy boss. It has been through this work that I have really experienced how online communities form and how incredible they can be. The concept of a creator making something online (ie Jess doing a style piece or a restaurant review for the blog) and having so many thousands of people viewing it and commenting their opinion makes me remember why the internet was such a success in the first place. Every time I publish something through The Golden Girl I am able to spark the interest of people everywhere, people I would never meet or know, and engage them. It’s such a simple idea that is the norm today but it’s also something so powerful and inspiring. Bloggers put in so much time and effort into their sites and, despite the negatives that come with the internet, it makes all of the work worth it when you physically see a community forming. In only a few months at my internship I have seen this occurring, and is what keeps me coming back.

Like any place one can live in the world, “living” on the internet has its definite advantages and downfalls. I can feel so engaged, so creative, and so fulfilled by different things online yet also feel so disconnected and wasteful at the same time. It a dichotomy of the digital world we live in today and is a struggle we each face when going online no matter what we’re using it for. Through the media diet project however, I have found that it is okay to have this struggle. The internet is a wonderful place to be enjoyed, but it is essential to do so with restraint.

Testing my Media Diet

To test my media use I tried to reduce the time I spent using the internet for mindless social media during the day. To do so I stopped using my computer during classes and stopped logging on/checking social media sites after 9pm each night. This also included bing-watching netflix before bed like I so often do. During the day I used my computer and phone to do school work and focused on only checking social media every few hours. I have an internship that requires me to analyze and focus on social media so I used it for that but otherwise only used my facebook to communicate with my peers when necessary.

I found that I was much more focused on my classes during the day and much more engaged. I was also able to sleep better at night since I had less distractions and could go to sleep peacefully and calm. Overall the experience was hard but good and gave me new insights into how media affects my daily life.

Media Diet: End of Step 1’s Preliminary Findings

The media diet project has allowed me to analyze and observe my media usage in a way that I hadn’t really considered before. I began the project believing myself to have a bit of a technology problem. Much like the gentleman from the TED Talk we watched in class, I am torn between the fact that I spend so much of my time online while at the same time the things I do on the internet bring me fulfillment and entertainment in a way that I can’t always find in other places.

I was particularly surprised by the fact that social media did not consume most of my time online. When I need to be studying or doing school work I often ridicule myself for spending “too much time on facebook” and joke about how I should just delete my account all together. After analyzing my use however, I see that facebook/twitter/instagram only take up a small part of my media usage each day. I spend a large majority of my time on other sites like pinterest and blogs that draw me and keep me there for longer than social media sites do. This fact says a lot about the internet and how we use it. We are very much so a social media generation, so much of what society does today revolves around our online presence. However, it is important to know that the internet does not end here. I think there’s nothing worse than people who only go online to “facebook stalk” or check their notifications. There’s so much more out there, so many people doing great creative things and publishing information that we can enjoy by branching out of simple social media.

When analyzing what times of day I was most active online I saw that it was during my classes that I was most bored in during the day. This is a problem that I need to work on and a place where I can truly be more “present”. As I said earlier, I believe that a lot of online use is an okay thing. However, I also think there should be time made in each day to unplug from the computer and focus attention on other things. I love to run and exercise so my time there is a time in which I can disconnect from the high volumes of media in my life. Classes are another time to disconnect from the media as well and that’s a time I need to remind myself that it’s okay and actually good for me to take a 50 minute break from the computer and pay attention.

Another part of media that I didn’t mention in my earlier findings post is my large usage of online video and movie platforms. Since they don’t specifically constitute as “social media” or as a “site” per say where I actively gain information I didn’t include them in these earlier posts.  However, I do spend a considerable part of my free time each week (usually right before bed) watching either Netflix, Hulu+, and HBOgo. These sites allow me to essentially watch anything I want at any time and I admit that I can be a binge watcher from time to time. This connects me to technology in ways that online surfing and browsing does not, as I am not doing anything active online and I’m simply using it as a way to satisfy boredom and entertain me when I’m home with nothing to do.

As a whole I would say I’m pretty all over the place when it comes to my media use. On one hand, I try and be very active and creative on the internet. I read blogs, post blogs, discover new articles, and engage with a community online on topics I’m interested in socially. I also gaze through useless status’ on facebook, support my friends subtweets (tweeting negatively about someone without directly saying their name) and spend aggressive amounts of time on Netflix. I like to think of myself as better than some at connecting in a positive way online but I also think I could spend less time on useless information and more time focusing on my life outside the internet.

PROPOSAL 

I am proposing in my media diet that I use the internet less for mindless social interactions and more for positive engagement with the online community. I will try and reduce my social media use to what is only really necessary and instead spend more time online reading useless articles and supporting the spread of information online, what the internet was originally created for. I hope to feel more fulfilled and more present while still utilizing the internet in a positive way.

Media Diet Project: Walk through on Instagram

For the walk through portion of my project I decided to use Instagram because it’s a form of media that I frequently visit and that can’t be captured on a computer like the rest of the media that I use. I check instagram every few hours a day to check out what’s been newly posted on the app. In this walk through, I start by looking at my “like” notifications that have accumulated over night after a I posted a photo the evening before. I am happy to see that a particular photo has gotten an especially large amount of likes and a few comments from friends. After seeing who has liked the photo I move on to my feed. I start at the top and begin scrolling down. I’m specifically careful not to accidentally double tap and like a photo of someone that I don’t know well. I follow a variety of different kinds of people on Instagram so the photos that I like as I scroll through vary. I like a photo Nicole Richie posted, I read through a “Humans of New York” post and like the photo, I double tap an image from Nat Geo. As I continue browsing I click on a friend from high school who has posted a photo with her mom for her birthday. I check to see what this old friend is up to day since I haven’t seen her in years and briefly browse through images of her on her page at her respective college. I then continue back on the main feed where I left off.

I double tap on a post from my best friends little sister, an inspiration board photo from one of my favorite brands Madewell, and a photo of an old friend hiking in the mountains over the weekend. I spend around 10 minutes on this instagram session and have probably looked at upwards of 150 different images. I’ve liked only a small percentage of them but I enjoyed this browsing session.

Instagram is a way to not only see pictures of friends but as a whole there are some extremely high quality images posted by different brands, organizations, and individuals that keep me coming back to instagram. Sometimes I think that instagram photography can be an art form, I’ve seen some photos that are extremely high quality of beautiful places and spaces that I long to visit. There’s a lot of spam and junk on instagram that can often become an annoyance, but on the flip side I love the app because of the variety of interesting and quality images that it provides for users. How else would I find a video Jay Z made for Beyonce over the weekend if I didn’t follow the couple on insta? Maybe not the most scholarly example, but I can’t deny the fact that instagram connects me to my interests in a way that other media forms can not.

Media Diet Project: Camtasia

I decided to do my Camtasia recording on a thursday afternoon while I was home from class with a free afternoon ahead of me. After setting up the program I went about my normal activities online. I began on Facebook because that’s where I typically start my days online. I go on the site where I am already logged on, my eyes going to the top right of the screen to see if any red notifications lay waiting for me. There’s a few useless notifications from my sorority’s facebook page updating me on an upcoming event for our chapter and I quickly look through it carelessly. Since, I already have facebook on my phone theres not a whole lot going on that I haven’t already seen during the day when I was bored and scrolling through the app.

Next I take to twitter and the process begins again. At this point I’ve begun to stop thinking about the fact that I am being recorded and continue scrolling through waves of tweets from my friends, celebrities, and brands. I laugh slightly at a funny tweet from a friend and then my expression turns back to a semi-glazed over thoughtfulness. I finish up with twitter and I’m done with social media for the time being. I then start clicking through some of my other favorite websites. I begin at BetchesLoveThis.com, my favorite news/lifestyle/celebrity site that I jokingly refer to as my bible. I laugh quietly aloud in the video while perusing the site, whose witty sarcasm is something that I without fail find hilarious.

For the rest of the camera session I look over a few blogs and skim through fashion posts, recipe posts, and other lifestyle pieces. I’m so used to the camera at this point that I just continue to browse without thinking about it. I become so engrossed in the different happenings online that its almost an hour until I finally decide to get off and stop the video. It’s no wonder my eyesight is so bad and keeps getting worse, the time I spend online giving it my undivided attention is baffling. However, despite looking at myself so engrossed in something electronic I can’t help but not feel guilty. I was obviously entertained and active on the web, reading articles and discovering new thoughts and experiences on every site that I perused. My glazed over expression was not an indicator of the world I as exploring on the web in front of me.

Preliminary Findings: Media Diet Project

Some might go as far as to say that I have a technology problem. In the grand scheme of “problems” in the world, ie mass hunger, global warming, etc. I wouldn’t really qualify it as an actual “problem” but I do spend more time on the internet than a lot of people do when I could be doing something perhaps more enriching in the outside world. My goals for this project are to find out if I am really missing out on something more out there while Im sitting behind the screen. Are my afternoons scrolling through Tumblr an actual waste of my time or are they just simply a depiction of the way in which the world is heading forever. I should also say that I don’t only use the internet for social media like so many 21 year old girls today. Obviously, I am on facebook, instagram, and twitter, the big 3 I would say in terms of social popularity. However, I use the internet for so many different things daily. I have a personal tumblr. I am a foody in a never ending search for recipes on pinterest. I have an internship with a popular Chicago lifestyle blogger and updating her social media and helping her create content is a part of my daily online checklist. On top of those I check up to 20 style blogs per day that I follow and get updates on the world from 2 or 3 news sites. I can with much certainty say that I do this almost every day. The internet is a vehicle that I use to fill my life with information I’m interested in and a way in which I fulfill myself creatively. I hope to better evaluate this fact further in the media diet project,