Entertain less, retain more

When each source of information has turned into a form of entertainment, its sense of purpose is lost.


by Zoe Butler, Editor-in-Chief

We’ve all heard it. It’s become a cliche in and of itself. Your mom or any righteous adult slams you with the deprecating look. Then you mouth along, knowing the words exactly, as she gives the: “You teens are spending too much time on your phones…they really are taking over our world!” That’s when you tune her out, and she carries on about how things were different back in her day.

But the problem isn’t the current teenage generation. The problem is that every source of media or outlet of information has turned into a form of entertainment, losing its sense of purpose.

Your mom’s right. Things were different back in her day. But it’s more than the semi-recent emergence of social media. It was about 20 years ago that Network News underwent a transformation. They got smarter. They figured out how to package their news segments into a smaller time slot, airing at exactly the right time, and so “prime time” was born.

And it only escalated from there. The flashy effects and eye-catching headlines tore up television and the way we processed and formed opinions on this information was altered. It became aggressive and slanted, each segment having a different agenda depending on which news channel you tuned into.

Eight years ago, journalist Nicholas Carr wrote in his book “The Shallows: How The Internet Is Changing our Brains” about our state of “perpetual distraction and constant disruption.” This book was mainly referring to computers and laptops, but is now most relevant when thinking about smartphones and tablets.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Carr discussed how we have an unlimited amount information at our fingertips, and it’s affecting how deeply we are able to be thinking.

In order to form long term memories, we need some kind of persistence for it to move beyond the conscious mind. But with technology, we are virtually pushing information in and out of our conscious mind, never fully retaining it.

It’s undeniable that technology has become a necessary thing, at least for the society that we live in. Its convenience, speed and accessibility are all progressive features that are helping improve and shape our future. But when looking around at my classmates on their phones, and when I occasionally become conscious of how much I am glued to it myself, I wonder how much is actually necessary.

Where is the line between crucial communication via text message, calls or emails and harmless things like listening to music or taking photos versus how much time we spend on social media or other forms of pure entertainment?

I decided to conduct an experiment based off this inquiry. I asked 11 students to share with me their battery usage, and I was able to confirm that a significantly greater amount of time is spent on social media/apps strictly used for entertainment than any other applications.

The battery usage for Snapchat averaged at 31 percent and for Instagram averaged around 18 percent. The battery usage for something like the Messages app usually hovered around three percent. Now, Snapchat is one example of a “game” app that is prone to taking up more battery life than any other app regardless of how much time was spent on that app, but the disparity still remains alarming.

Living in a consumerist society, it’s only smart for these media companies to try and sell their product in whatever best way possible. But as the consumers, it’s our job to not buy into everything they put out to us. When it comes to news, if we are no longer able to differentiate between an act of consumerism and information worth hearing, then we’ve lost any type of real purpose. And when it comes to social media, the apps’ strategy is to make us sell ourselves to everyone else: how can prove that we are living the perfect life, worth hitting that follow/like/comment button?

What’s important is that we are able to notice when our attention is being hijacked by all these sources of constant entertainment, and that at any point, we’re able to turn it off. We need to remember that each of these sources of information, whether social or mainstream media, are businesses first. They may be able to consistently gain viewership, but we can’t let them alter the way we process information.