For one week, (8/27/18 to 8/31/18) I observed my news & other media habits. While I often feel exhausted or overwhelmed by the amount of available information to consume, I’ve noticed a patterned theme to my consumption. The realization of motivation behind my media consumption is what I would categorize as “anxiety avoidance”. The consumption, or lack thereof, serves the purpose of comforting my feelings of detachment derived from the dismal portrayal of the world by news media. I often question the intentions behind mass media messages and believe the modern landscape avoids honest attempts at meaning-making and developing human connection. Okay, maybe I am justifying my avoidance with fluffy hippie jargon, but it is because of this anxiety that my media consumption routine has been influenced with intention to “feel better” or “seek change”.
The so-called “anxiety avoidance” routine begins as I wake up to the previous nights’ bedtime story, using a phone app that provides guided meditation. I then tune into Radio Boise, with hopes of transporting myself into a random genre of music/audio stimulation. Waking up each morning and listening to Radio Boise delivers me a sense of community and offers a unique experience with each show I listen to. If I may, I will compare the experience to buying a grab-bag at your local dollar store:
It is a Saturday afternoon, and you’ve found yourself at the Dollar Tree. Although you need nothing in this store, you wander aimlessly down each aisle, scanning products with the intention to find a good deal. As you near the front, ending your labyrinth venture, you notice the items placed in your basket don’t fulfill your idea of a “productive” dollar store trip, so you make a last-ditch effort and head to the balloon section. It’s here where you find a wall of surprise-grab bags, hand packaged by the employees, labeled with the insurance of random, hand-selected surprises on the front of each brown bag.
“ Surprise! Handpicked by: Carol ”
You survey the large selection of bags, pressing the thin paper to the contents of the mystery package, testing the weight, shaking them in blind anticipation. You came to this dollar store for nothing in this bag, yet you have found yourself analyzing this purchase the most out of any item you placed in your basket. You finally make your decision. It is the perfect surprise for your bleak Saturday afternoon. You purchase the items in your basket, and head for the parking lot.
Knowing any grab-bag you picked may contain items you may already have (or ones you don’t want), your good faith in dollar store grab-bags remains unshaken. You hold the thin, brown paper bag in your hands as it remains intact for the very last time, and with childlike wonder, you rip it in two and let the contents lay flat, spread out on the remnants of the shredded paper. Just as you expected, you own 2 of the items in the surprise bag and the last 4 trinkets, you decide can be given away. As you analyze this purchase as a whole, you realize that perhaps you didn’t purchase the grab bag for any item inside of it, but for the experience of it all. Your dollar store gab-bag experience has allowed you to guide by your senses, express feelings of curiosity, and has given a gift that was handmade just for you- all achieved by your expert ability to explore.
Listening to Radio Boise is my surprise grab-bag amidst the modern news media landscape. Within the moment in time I choose to tune into a broadcast, I know I may never find what song is playing or who the artist is, and I may never hear it again. I find myself relishing in the fact that no matter how much I may enjoy a song, my Shazam App won’t find it for me, and I am grounded once again. I am reminded that the experience I am looking for does not lie in the knowledge of what song I am listening to, but enjoying the song while it lasts.
I suppose this grab-bag metaphor can be used to describe my entire media usage. In context to anxiety avoidance, I consume news media to pacify or compensate for the feelings of living a mundane reality or having an unfulfilling day. I turn to categories of media that relay opinions and information regarding mental health, physical wellness, history/culture, and other audio/visual stimulations that attempt to alleviate stress and anxiety. I indulge in guided meditations, guided yoga practices, and relaxing background music. I understand that I impact the media as much the media I consume shapes me. In this sense, I am not combating the modern media landscape, only changing the way I interact with it.
Before monitoring my news/media consumption, I was under the impression I was affected more by the media I avoid (news avoidance) than the media I choose to indulge in. I filled my time with comforting media to forget the confusing and depressing media. After realizing my true media consumption routine, I feel more empowered than anxious in knowing that I have made active attempts to consume media that is both helpful to my emotional well-being and is transformative to my ever-expanding perspective on my own life amongst the context of other’s lives.
Here is a link to an article by Radio Boise explaining why Community Radio is so important. It explains in more detail some of the many things I love about their programs, like playing unique music, allowing the mind to be imaginative, as well as the vast availability of community radio.
Go community radio! Go Radio Boise!