On this date last year, I was approaching the end of an experiment to significantly curtail the amount of time I spent on social media. The effort was largely a success (as judged by my own lenient standards). As a result, I’ve managed to let go of a few social media activities, mostly those that never grabbed my interest that much in the first place. For instance, I haven’t been back to GetGlue at all since the 2012 Super Bowl, and my use of Foursquare and Google+ has been sporadic since that experiment.
The best part of the social media curtailment was that it helped me step away from the screen for a bit to think about my social media use. It gave me time to reflect on how I use social media, and why. This is important to do from time to time, because the pursuits we devote ourselves to — those we spend the most time pursuing — help define we are and who we become.
The idea of analyzing a “media diet” intrigued me. So I thought I’d take some time to do the same.
Here are the five major food groups of my media diet, and what I feast on.
Online news and opinion
These days, it seems Twitter is one of the first places I turn to for breaking news and information. I typically check Twitter on my iPad first thing in the morning, then keep it open in a tab on my desktop throughout the day. My Twitter stream is full of smart people and news-gathering organizations who curate a lot of terrific content for my consumption. It is my go-to learning network. For other news, I typically scan my Google Reader in the morning using customized setting on iGoogle (which, unfortunately, goes away next November) or use the iPad apps Zite or Pulse, both of which I’ve set up to customize news of interest for me. Google Reader is my morning news site, Zite and Pulse are for evening skimming.
To check what’s happening in the higher ed blogosphere, I check BlogHighEd first, then EDUniverse. Both have become indispensable info-sources for me. For other higher ed news, I check The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.
I do still occasionally read print newspapers and magazines, but more and more the information I consume comes from the online world.
Twitter remains my social media of choice, now and probably forever. Facebook is a distant second that I use mainly to stay in touch with family members and friends who do not use Twitter. (I also post to and monitor Facebook and Twitter as part of my job.) Instagram is third, and more fun than Facebook, but I don’t take a lot of camera pics (my non-media diet — as in food — isn’t always interesting enough to photograph)
I find the social interactions on Twitter much more enjoyable and less political and dramatic than the Facebook interactions — probably because most of the Twitter contacts are people who share common interests, whereas many of my Facebook friends are family members, high school classmates and local acquaintances. Facebook dramatics is what prompted my experiment last February. My original intent was to limit my fast to that platform only (I dubbed it Facebook-free February) but decided to broaden the experiment.
I’ve started using Foursquare again, motivated mainly by a desire to steal the mayorship of the office building where I work away from a co-worker. (Really, is there any other reason for playing with Foursquare?) I still don’t do much with Google Plus or LinkedIn.
Once upon a time, I was an audiophile devoted to listening to music on high-quality stereo systems and headphones. But to quote Steely Dan, Those days are gone forever, over a long time ago.
Now, with my schedule, I listen to music mostly on the run or in passing, or as background while working. So high-quality lossless audio isn’t required. I settle for mp3s.
But I still love music. I just listen to it mainly in mp3 format. I have an iPad and iPhone loaded almost to the max with tunes. In the mornings, while getting ready for work, I’ll put the iPhone on shuffle for a chance to hear tunes from Adam Ant to Yuck. For runs and workouts, I use an 8-gigabyte Sony Walkman mp3 player that is loaded with up-tempo rock. These days, I purchase most of my music in digital format from either eMusic and Amazon, and I follow @amazonmp3 on Twitter to get the skinny on the latest deals. I also use Spotify to test-drive complete albums before deciding to purchase them. (I still like to purchase complete albums rather than individual tracks. I guess that’s the ’70s kid in me. And then I upload as much as I can into the Google Music cloud for listening anywhere.)
Not as much as I used to, but I still occasionally visit music sites like Stereogum and Paste for music, and once in a while I’ll download a free track from RCRDLBL. And of course, I rely on my fellow Higher Ed Music Critics tastemakers for insights about what’s worth listening to. Right now, I’ve been tuned in to a mix of old and new. The old being The Who’s underrated Face Dances and the new being albums by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down (We The Common), Veronica Falls (Waiting for Something to Happen) and, not quite so new, Django Django’s self-titled album from last fall.
I read books on the screen (using the Kindle app for iPad) and in print. I read mostly non-fiction — memoirs, marketing books, leadership books, histories and the like. But from last October through early January I got totally sucked in to some historical fiction by Ken Follett — specifically, the first two books of his Century trilogy: Fall of Giants and Winter of the World. More recently, I picked up historian Max Hastings’ weighty one-volume history of World War II, Inferno: The World At War, 1939-1945, which I picked up on a whim while killing time in a Barnes & Noble. (Yes, I pick up weighty history tomes on a whim in bookstores. But that selection was also influenced by book two of Follett’s Century trilogy, which focused on the war.)
Currently open in my Kindle is Pete Townshend’s memoir, Who I Am. (Townshend is the guitarist and a founding member of the UK rock band The Who.) Also in print, I’ve started reading The Zen Leader and have on my list two others, Can’t Buy Me Like (about marketing and social media) and Archetypes (which includes a cool companion website, ArchetypeMe.com).
I don’t watch a lot of television, and what I do watch is fairly routine. My wife and I watch Raising Hope on Tuesdays (even though the show, now in its third season, has settled into the routine of sitcom predictability and is no longer that funny), Modern Family on Wednesdays (still good), The Big Bang Theory (my wife’s favorite), Parks and Recreation, The Office (not sure why we watch anymore; each episode almost always disappoints) and a new NBC sitcom, 1600 Penn, on Thursdays, and news and sports from time to time. I also try to catch The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and Jeopardy! when time allows. We rarely watch movies — on TV, Netflix or in the theater. Guilty pleasure: Tosh.0.
That’s what my media diet consists of. What about yours?