In the book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” the idea that immersion in what we love will lead to our end is presented and analyzed. After reading this book I took it upon myself, as part of a class assignment, to go 24 hours without media. Initially I believed that this would be an easy task but found that as a whole we are surrounded by media in every instance of our lives. From car rides, to simply walking around my house I had to be observant to avoid media that would reset my 24 hour time frame.
In Postman’s book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”, he reflects on how the television brings families to the same room but creates separation between them. In my time without media I spent two meals with my family (a lunch and dinner). At both of these gatherings my family talked much more than we usually did. While watching television we would “shush” each other to hear the show, but without it we discussed school, politics, and controversies such as legalizing weed. Looking back at this I see Postman’s point. We become so focused on the story folding out in front of us that we block out each other in the process.
I also noticed the same effect when I was driving with my grandfather that night. He needed to deliver a present to family and I needed driving hours, so I drove the hour and a half drive. I wasn’t allowed to touch the radio because of my media break so we talked for that time. I found out that my close grandfather, whom I see five times a week, has severe ankle problem and was going to get treatment later that week. I like to think I’m close to my family, but this occurring without me even knowing about it struck a chord in me. How much do we really know about our loved ones? What simply hasn’t come up because we spend our time learning about the new celebrity fads or who wore what where?
As I’m sitting here listening to the radio while writing this I have to reflect on Postman’s thoughts of how intertwined our world is with media. As he put it, President Taft wouldn’t have been voted into office in today’s world because less people would vote for someone that overweight. By this Postman means to point out how media has touch our lives. Not being able to use my cell phone to call people or watch the news on television, shrunk my world to what I could see, hear, and touch around me. I spent most of my time in my room reading books to pass the time, and when I did leave my room I only saw my family room, kitchen, and a little outside.
We rely on television, radio, and other media to bring us information. But, what is never a given is that the information sources we depend on aren’t biased. When opinions disguised as “facts” are viewed without any analysis and taken at face value, we are only creating sue do opinions that aren’t even ours. This influence in our lives not only emphasizes rifts in ideals, but also can give groups the power to falsify information and mislead others. Maybe we are not simply “Amusing Ourselves to Death” but Amusing Ourselves to the Death of Ourselves.
When I was in middle school up till eighth grade I had a friend who used to watch BBC all the time as a child. I remember asking him about his speech patterns, and him telling me that he even used to have a British accent! I can also relate to these thoughts. When I was smaller I used to speak using syntax that wasn’t very normal. This was because I used to be very sheltered and not get out much. Sesame Street was one of my favorites as a child. Communication skills have to be developed like anything else, with practice. When I wasn’t exposed to people talking casually, I developed a way of speaking that didn’t fit with the people around me. This is a prime example of Postman’s point. We as a new generation can’t communicate like we should be able to. Technology has stripped us of that. When most kids get don’t know what to say next in a situation, the check their phones. This is a good example of our reliance on media and technology and shows our subconscious dependence on these devices.
When you turn to your television tonight who or what do you see? What do you learn? What human interaction do you participate in? Postman mentions in his book how through television we learn to interact with people. But, these people we learn how to interact with don’t act like real humans do. They are actors, their body movements and word phrasing has been planned out and set step by step for them. This means that those actors we learn to interact with, and habits we gain don’t help us to talk to people face to face. While breaking from media I thought about this at a point.
In summary I believe the time I spent without media allowed me to see through Postman’s lens. The thought that the media we love so dearly is slowly destroying us may seem preposterous at first, but when further analyzed has ground to stand on. We gain social skills, news, opinions, bias, and a central meeting place for a family from media. Are these good or bad? Does this media influence our life to the point that it is the main factor we all cling to? We have to guard ourselves against the negative effects of this technology so we are not used. That doesn’t mean we cut ourselves off from it completely. If we do that than we are shrinking our world view to that which we can see ourselves. Like everything else in life we must take new media in proportion, with a clear mind. If so we may be able to avoid “Amusing Ourselves to Death”.