suggests in his book "Program or Be Programmed," are we using media, or is media using us?
From my very own personal experience with technology and media use throughout the years, I realize I have only relied on a select few aspects of it. Since I can remember, I have been using the internet, specifically the search engine Google, to help me with school work and to search for answers to questions that would come in to my mind. I have used computers as a young child to play learning games, and to listen to music whether off of disks or through the internet. Whether a young child or a young adult, I realized very early on that one specific type of media has always been a constant for me – that being music and all media that has to do with it. Other than this, I was convinced that any other media, besides the connection made through a telephone call, the general power of an internet search engine, or any musically functioning based program, proved unnecessary for me. To prove myself either right or wrong, I tested my media experiences, usage, and reliance through a project called the Media Diet Project. I also made sure to make observations about those students and peers around me with each passing day.
Throughout the media diet project, I decided to cut myself off completely from using any form of social media for thirty-six hours. I made this decision because I was absolutely certain that I have not been reliant on social media and that I would not need it or miss it for three days, considering I barely use social media anyway. To my surprise, I realized that though most media seems unnecessary for me, I actually need more of it than I had previously thought. I realized that I actually need to make phone calls and texts to make sure that family members and friends know where I am, where I will be, and where I’m going. I realized that for school, I need to rely heavily on the internet to find and complete homework assignments and then on Microsoft Word to write papers and to record notes. I realized that throughout those thirty-six hours while I cut myself off completely from the internet, I had questions popping into my mind that I wasn’t able to find the answers to. Most importantly, I realized that music feeds my soul and that I can’t live without having some kind of a musical resource at arm’s reach. I realized that though I hadn’t ever been the type to excessively keep my phone in front of my face or hide behind it from the rest of the world, I had been the type to actually rely on certain applications to help me through actual tasks throughout my day. These are just a few examples of how helpful some media usage can be.
Though I have always been pretty aware of all that is going on around me, as well as observant of my peers and the rest of my environment, I became extremely observant for those three days. I realized that a good majority of my peers are constantly if not always looking down at their phones or devices. I’m not kidding. Within those three days of my Media Diet Experience, I made two very important case observations. I was walking toward Corboy Law Center near Loyola University Chicago’s Water Tower Campus on two separate occasions. On the first, I was waiting in line to take the shuttle bus back to Loyola University Chicago’s Lake Shore Campus. I was one of the first in line and waiting just outside of the big glass doors as students behind me formed a congregation as the shuttle bus pulled up and released its latest batch of students. I looked around me and realized that each and every single person within the line had their face down and looking into their phone. I then noticed that a few students off the street cut in front of our line because they took advantage of the sad fact that everyone was looking at their phones. Just a day later, I saw a student almost get run over by a shuttle bus because she was looking down at her phone while crossing the street. Mentioning these two facts and observations alone means very little when taking in to consideration that these things happen every single day because people have stopped paying attention to the world around them. These are just a few examples of how harmful excessive media usage can be.
Throughout my thirty-six hour experience participating in the Media Diet Project, I found that I actually missed one important assignment due date and that I almost missed two more assignment due dates because I decided to avoid using the internet. Because I made the decision to cut myself off completely from the internet, as well as media use, my school work had actually suffered a bit. It goes to show that no matter how positive enough I was to believe that I haven’t relied on media and that I wouldn’t ever need to, I needed to see the lack of my own media usage and reliance on it to believe it. Once my Media Diet Experience had passed, I was overly relieved to use the internet as well as email and music applications once again.
Using the observations I made of myself and of those around me, I realized that media usage can be very good or very bad depending on how extremely one uses it or avoids using it. The excessive use of media, for example, can yield bad results because it has the ability to separate us from the rest of the world around us and make us forget gradually how to be observant, aware of ourselves as well as others, and to hold basic human qualities and communication among ourselves and others. Some good examples of the bad effects of excessive media use include those students that took advantage of everyone’s unawareness and cut in front of the line, as well as the young woman who almost got hit by the shuttle bus because of her unawareness. Excessive media avoidance, however, can also yield bad results because it has the ability to cut an individual completely off from the technologically growing world around us. Some good examples of the bad effects of complete media avoidance include my inability to complete school work on time, or to contact my family members and professors, or to get daily tasks done as others are capable of doing with ease with the resources we are exposed to every single day known as media or applications. I have found, through my experience, that common ground is necessary to successfully use media without being completely consumed by it.