My Life as a Media Hermit

GASP! “How do you live?!”

This was the reaction of my colleague when I told her I didn’t have internet OR cable at home. Living without these new age technologies for nearly a year now, the idea doesn’t seem so strange to me. After that reaction, I’m waiting to receive my Medal of Honor for courageously surviving such depraved conditions.

After graduation I moved into my own apartment to live the dream – to be a young, independent woman living alone in…well, Muncie. It’s not quite New York City, but sometimes if I open my windows I hear the sound of cars rushing by, then all I have to do is close my eyes, insert more expletives and honking horns and POOF – New York. Right?

I digress… My plan was to spend a year working while I waited for my Peace Corps application to be approved. In no time at all, I would be off to a third-world country. In an attempt to wean myself off of technology in preparation for the media deprivation in my future, I elected to abstain from cable and internet in my new place.

Surprisingly, it was much easier than I thought. My nights and weekends are spent in the company of my books. Instead of planting myself in front of the TV when I return from work, I find myself at the gym, out with a friend, or wrapped in a blanket slicing through my reading list with greater alacrity than ever before. (I have Jane Austen to thank for the addition of “alacrity” to my vocabulary, by the way.) Though I do not have cable, I still have a library of DVDs, two working TVs, and a Family Video down the street that I take full advantage of.

I did not swear off media on principle. I don’t think TV or internet is the devil incarnate, or the direct cause of the depraved minds of our nation. On the contrary, what I’ve learned in my voluntary severance from media on the home-front is threefold.

First, my time without cable enforced its social currency. As another colleague once said, TV is the social lubricant of our society. Whether meeting new people or connecting with old friends, TV is typically a sure path to free-flowing conversation. Without cable, I learned to assume the role of the grand inquisitor. I didn’t contribute much to the nuances of the conversation, but I “oo”-ed and “ahh”-ed with the best of them. I found that people loved to keep me in the loop and share their favorite series and episodes with me. So, all in all, I still remained part of the in-crowd, which is so important to us 20-somethings.

Secondly, I realized just how much media I have access to outside of my home. I can access the internet at work, anywhere on campus, in coffee shops, at friends’ houses and at restaurants to name a few. I catch up on Food Network shows while I’m running on the treadmill, CNN news when I’m walking through the hallway, and Top Gear when I’m babysitting. If all else fails, I head to ABC.com and YouTube to stay updated on The Office and Britain’s Got Talent’s rising stars.

Finally, I’ve realized that in a world saturated with media, it’s about the priorities you set and the decision you make. In June, my lease is up. I’ve withdrawn from the Peace Corp, and instead will be immersed in the working world. Soon I’ll have to make the choice of whether to extend my year-long abstinence or budget for a cable-internet package. I worry that I’ll gorge on media like I do Skittles after Lent. But that’s all part of the game, right? I can’t blame TV for the dust gathering on my books, or for my expanding waist line. I’ll simply have to learn that living amongst temptation does not necessitate succumbing to it. The choice is mine.

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1 comment about "My Life as a Media Hermit".
  1. Anthony Moller from Australian Radio Network , April 20, 2009 at 6:14 p.m.
    Jen, Great post, thanks. I applaud you for trying to live the media free life. At the other end of the spectrum I work for a radio network in Australia and am completely immersed in media... and loving it. I wear a double hat in terms of my consumption habits: consuming for me and as a member of my audience/ industry. It was the latter that lead me to take an interest in your post. Imagine hearing via the internet about the media diet of a consumer that claims not to be connected... to the internet. And then there you were. Of course, you have access outside your Muncie apartment to the web, but that's kinda like saying that you go to a department store and stand around gazing at the TVs when you need your fill. For me, the net is as ubiquitous as television in my life. I could do without both, but pleased to say I don't have to. Welcome to the 'Piece Corps' Jen: an everyman organization of dedicated media consumers trying desperately to stay ahead (or at least current) with the times via pieces of news, snippets of shows, trailers, podcasts, posts etc. PS: I wonder if Jane A ever had cause to use 'ubiquitous' in her ubiquitous texts?