Media Experiment #1
Prompt: Observe everyday media use/media-in-action; Abstain from as much technology as possible for as long as possible.
We were assigned the experiment Monday in class. Since then, I had been mentally preparing myself for the big experiment. I would later come to realize I overestimated my ability to disconnect, and underestimated my addiction to technology.
I set expectations for myself:
Over confident that I would have no trouble with this experiment, I decided to go cold turkey and cut myself off from all electronic/communicative devices. This included, but was not limited to, my cell phone, iPod, laptop, netbook, alarm clock, and even contemplated my hair dryer and the stove. I opted out of the last two when I reevaluated the condition of my hair and my hunger.
I picked a day:
I chose Saturday because I wanted a day where no alarm clock was required. I wanted to refrain from using my alarm or any clock, because I wanted to get rid of time as a factor in my experiment. In another class we discussed the American language as a dictator of American culture. And American language, with a heavy emphasis on time: I’m going, we will be, I don’t have time, a waste of time, etc., is reflected in our cultural obsession with controlling and managing time. I personally am always working around the clock, 24/7. Pico Iyer’s article “The Joy of Quiet,” discusses an observation of people making an effort to escape the thralls of technology. He explains, “in barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them- often in order to make more time” (Iyer, 1). I chose Saturday because it gave me the most time to do, well, nothing. We’ll later discuss how Saturday did not work out so well for me.
Next, I created a set of rules for myself and activities to do:
Rule #1. Disconnect from all technology.
I broke this rule Saturday morning when I had forgotten to turn off my cell phone alarm clock the night before, essentially prompting me to wake up at 7am, only to see unread texts and emails I felt compelled to respond to.
After breaking my first rule so easily the first time, I decided to make a few adjustments and not cut myself off entirely from technology. I think the first time I tried to do too much too soon. So I tried again.
Day 1 Status: fail. Sunday would be the back-up day to attempt the experiment again.
Rule # 2. Occupy my mind and body.
This rule was even more difficult to follow. Ideally, I wanted to occupy my physical body to distract my mind.
I woke up without using my clock.
Activity #1: take a stroll over to Yoga to the People at St. Mark’s. The walk would be earphone less and I would have left or "forgotten” my cell phone at home. That never happened. I never made it outside my apartment without checking some portal or using some form of technology first.
Activity #2: was to allow myself the exception of a treadmill as an electronic device, and then go on over to the gym to work out. That backfired when I remembered our treadmills have televisions attached to them.
Activity #3: I decided that reading and writing would count as a form of keeping my mind occupied, even though some argue that reading and writing are products of technological advancements. I never got this far either.
Again, Iyer’s article reflected so perfectly the goal of my second rule- to physically and mentally escape the mediated world. In his article, he later writes “more and more people I know, even if they have no religious commitment seem to be turning to yoga,” like me!, “these aren’t’ New Age fads so much as ways to connect with what could be called the wisdom of old age” (Iyer, 3). He also recalls how his friends often try to take long walks or “forget” their phone at home, a practice I’ve been trying very hard to make a habit (Iyer, 3). I’ve been successful at this only a handful of times in my life, and all are post apocalyptic events in my life- events that warranted a drastic change. I suppose I thought I would be able to do it on command this time. I was wrong.
Rule #3: Self over Others.
My final rule was set in place to try to break my addiction with the constant need to feel connected to others who are not presently with me. Though, it was because of this rule that I failed the experiment.
Day 2 Status: 45 minutes These 45 minutes accounted for the time that I first woke up, washed up, changed, and then sat back down in my bed. At which point I began to feel anxious with unanswered questions, hypotheticals, and “what if’s.” What if my dad sent me something important? What if I didn’t respond, then he’d think I was in some sort of danger since I always respond right away. Or what if my friends tried to contact me while I’m sleeping? A majority of my friends are on the west coast so they’re still awake when I go to bed. I didn’t want them to think that I was blowing them off and ignoring their texts. Or maybe I got an email from work requesting a change in schedule. It was that blasted blinking red light was telling me that someone had something to say to me, and I was being rude for not responding. So in 45 minutes, not even an hour, I caved.
In No sense of Place, Joshua Meyrowitz discusses how electronic media devices change social and cultural behaviors by blurring social roles and changing the “situational geography” of social life (Meyrowitz, 6). We in fact blurring the line between physical and virtual spaces where actually being present and embodied breeds uncomfortability and unfamiliarity. I ashamedly admit I know that my connection to my family and friends through mediated spaces and devices like text or Facebook, makes me feel less alone, and in some senses, reaffirms my existence. During those 45 minutes I felt this overwhelming desire to communicate with others because of an unsettling feeling of being alone. So, if I couldn’t physically be in the presence of someone, than communicating through technology gave me a sense of mental relief. I found myself jittery and uncomfortable, unable to occupy my body or mind, and unable to leave the house for one of my activities without checking my portals first. I was overly concerned about the amount of time I would waste and the amount of time it would take me to respond before my friends and family began to worry about my silence. This is something I believe Marshall McLuhan described perfectly in The Medium is the Massage. He writes that “all media are extensions of some human faculty- psychic or physical” and that they all “work us over completely” (McLuhan, 26). Essentially, media changes our sensual perception by changing the environment in which we communicate. Media consumes us to an extent in which “electric circuitry” is “an extension of the central nervous system” (McLuhan, 40) and take complete control. In a way, media and technology is like a drug, providing relief once embraced, but perpetuating a dependence that is not desired but near inevitable.
IYER, PICO. “The Joy of Quiet." The New York Times. The New York Times, 29 Dec. 2011. Web. 17 Sept. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/opinion/sunday/the-joy-of-quiet.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>.
McLuhan, Marshall. The Medium is the Massage. Berkeley: Ginko Press, 1996 (1967)
Mcluhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. “Media Hot and Cold” p.22-32
Meyrowitz, Joshua. No Sense of Place. Preface, vii-xii; “Introduction: Behavior In Its Place,” p.1-9; Ch. 3, “Media, Situations, Behavior,” p.35-51.