James Pearson, writing on how media is usurping our lives:
In Wallace’s book, a Canadian terrorist informant of foggy allegiance asks an American undercover agent a form of the question: “If Americans would choose to press play on the film Infinite Jest, knowing it will kill them, doesn’t that mean they are already dead inside, that they have chosen entertainment over life?” Of course vanishingly few Americans would press play on a film that was sure to end their lives. But there’s a truth in this absurdity. Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check.
I originally found this link several years ago,1 and it’s one that’s continued to be in my mind. Every few months, I think back to it, as I let my life be consumed once again by the constant stream of entertainment.
There are times I do seriously consider stepping away entirely from movies and TV entirely. More often than not, when I finish watching them, I don’t feel particularly fulfilled. Even video games sometimes feel the same. That’s not even to mention the RSS feeds I follow, the social networks I pay attention to, the forums I frequent, the news, the analysis of the news, the analysis of the analysis of the news…
Part of the overwhelming feeling I have these days is most certainly tied up in this stream of information. If I don’t keep up, I feel behind—and when I don’t have the time to catch up, I just end up in a cycle of falling farther and farther behind.
This article remains a reminder to me that I need to choose to be more deliberate with how I spend my time. I don’t want to simply be a consumer, constantly trying to catch up on all the things to entertain me. I don’t want my life to drip away in small pieces like this.
I want to choose to focus on things that are more important. Spending time with family and friends. Real interactions with people. I need to spend more time producing things instead of just consuming them.
It’s a constant struggle, keeping my urge to add even more things to my information stream in check. Inevitably, I add too much, then pare back, and repeat over and over again. Each time, thinking “maybe this time I’ve learned”. But I don’t.
So I keep coming back to this article. It’s still applicable, years later.
Ironically, because of my incessant checking of Twitter/Facebook/etc. ↩