Roughly four years ago, I was a whole person more than what I am now. Through literal blood, sweat, and tears, I lost the equivalent of a middleweight fighter in the UFC. How big is that exactly? Meet Nick Diaz, MMA bad boy and all around badass. Yes, him. I lost a whole him worth of weight. It wasn’t easy. It required commitment and dedication. A lot of hours went into this transformation of mine – from dealing with the head issues that got me there in the first place to researching the science of nutrition and exercise to the sheer amount of time I spent in the gym – improving my physical self became a job of its own.
I bring this up because when we think of things in term of diet, we automatically think of our outward appearance and physical bodies. It is everywhere we turn: commercials with Oprah and her friends gathered around a table talking about Weight Watchers, groups on social media, hashtags on Twitter, instagram accounts devoted to transformations, books, programs, television shows, friends selling us Advocare or BeachBody, and in the aisles of our grocery stores filled we products with “diet-friendly”, “low-fat”, “low-carb” “lean” on the packaging. It is an ingrained part of our society. So much so, according to a report by Marketdata Enterprises -a research firm dedicated to tracking the diet product and service industry – total sales within this industry for 2014 were $64,000,000,000.
What we generally don’t think of in terms of diet is our media diet. Our media diet is just that – what media and information we feed ourselves. Jihii Jolly visited the idea of the media diet for the Columbia Journalism Review in this article in 2014 and revisited it again in this article. More recently, The New York Times touched on this topic in regards to news and information, especially after the elections. There are even those that believe turning the news off is a form of self-care. In my experience, mostly through the newsfeed of Facebook, the case for the media diet is mostly connected in limiting screen time for children and teen. These articles, often met with defensiveness, deal not with what media we are consuming, but that we are consuming media at all. To me, this is a completely different issue that confuses the two.
Though it is difficult to see the impact because it is something we cannot physically see for comparison and measure, I know that in the past, I have been a media glutton. If my outwardly body demonstrated my ravenous media consumption, I would still be that 300-plus pound girl. I work at home. The television will be on “for noise”. Even if I am not actively watching it, I am still consuming this media on some level. Do I really need to consume marathons of Snapped or hours of cable news where little news is actually reported but hours are spent on panels of contributors and experts giving me their speculation and opinion on the state of affairs? Do I really need to give an hour of my time each week on a show in season 13 when I really stopped enjoying it in season 4? Why am I binge watching Stranger Things on Netflix when I’m not really digging it? How much more can Frank fuck up on Shameless before it becomes the same thing every episode of every season?
See, guilty. And that’s not counting the hours I spent trolling Twitter for something, the headlines streaming down my Newsfeed on Facebook, or hours I spent waiting for a giraffe to give birth when, right down the road, a giraffe gave birth for the first time and I can actually go there and see the baby in person. Or watch another giraffe birth with a quick search on YouTube. Dammit, April, hurry up!
As much as comprehension and cultivation of knowledge is apart of this project, so is consumption. My consumption, specifically. It’s time for me to go on my own media diet. For this project, I’m going to stop consuming for consumption sake, for conversation sake, and for fear of missing out. Everything that I consume will be done will purpose. I will consume only those things I love (Hello Twin Peaks Reboot and Game of Thrones Season 7) or things from which I learn. That’s my magic pill for my media diet – love it or learn from it.