Consuming slow entertainment in a fast-information age


Photo credit: Jaime Munoz

After a full day of school, it’s time to sleep. Lying in bed, my eyes locked on the dim laptop screen in front of me. My nightly melatonin creeps up as my attention flat lines and I drift off into a peaceful, numb sleep.

The next morning, my eyes lazily open. I grab my laptop, still open from last night’s Netflix binge, off the floor. After showering, I head to Starbucks for my morning coffee.

Our society has been conditioned to compulsively consume fast-moving digital media, like an entertainment addiction. This addiction breeds a dread of isolation, silence and contemplation.

As I sit in Starbucks, alone, I tune into the subtle pop music playing over the speakers. Everyone knows it’s bad but, somehow, it’s better than silence. As I sit stationary, waiting for my order, I’m reminded of my nightly Netflix binges—the static level of consumption that puts me to sleep each night.

After school, I head home and my roommate hands me an Amazon package with my name on it. Inside the package, I find a novel I ordered about a week ago. This sparks the question in my head: Will I start reading this tonight or turn on Netflix?

After deciding to at least start the novel, I sit down and grapple with my writhing attention.

I can tell from the duration and intensity of the vibration in my pants’ pocket that I just received a Snapchat. I resist checking my phone.

A couple minutes later—my thoughts, hot and sluggish, fumbling around like clothes in a dryer—I feel another vibration. The particulars of this vibration tell me I just received a text.

An electromagnetic pulse moves from my head to my gut, as I reach for my phone—marking my place in my book with the edge of my thumb. Five minutes later, I slide the phone across my desk—fogged up from shooting Snapchat streams of Chico State party culture.

Before attempting to refocus on my book, small pangs of anxiety and hysteria creep up my spine as I sit quietly and alone—restlessly scanning the white walls of my bedroom. Once again, my eyes begin tracking the words in my book. My mind feels uncomfortable, strained, like walking uphill with sore legs. My thoughts pull me in alternate directions.

My hair tickles the back of my neck, distracting me as I realize it’s time for a haircut.

What time is it?

I want to be in bed, watching “The Office” by 11 p.m.

How much longer is this chapter?

What do I want for breakfast tomorrow?

I need to do laundry.

After about 30 or 50 minutes, my eyes start gliding smoothly across each page. My head enters an alternate state of attention. My thoughts feel crisper, sharper and calmer in the silence.

After a couple hours, I get ready for bed, leaving my laptop on my desk.

While eating breakfast the next morning, some unknown force drives me to pick up last night’s novel instead of the TV remote. After about 45 minutes, I rush out the door and grab only my backpack in an effort to get to school on time.

Sitting in a calm and quiet classroom, I realize it’s been a while since I took this many notes during a lecture.

But let’s speed this up, I forgot my headphones today in the rush, and I’ve just been reminded, by the people behind me, that there’s a new episode of “Game of Thrones” on tonight.

Grant Schmieding can be reached at [email protected] or @G_Schmieding on Twitter.