Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Media Consumption

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 15, 2013


Vivian, forty-two, stresses over what media to consume. She used to avoid television, as she was bored by most of it, but recently, she finds herself drawn to series such as ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Homeland’ and ‘Newsroom’. She also loves her podcasts which she feels give her great pleasure. On the other hand, she misses reading books, an activity that seems to have fallen away.  She says “I am just disgusted with myself that I cannot read a book,” Vivian says with such intensity that if I only listen to the tone, I would think that she did some heinous act. “I wonder why you are so mad at yourself all of the time,” I say, thinking that her preoccupation with media consumption is yet another way for her to do serious emotional self-injury. ” I just do not remember a time before where there were so many things to stay on top of,” she says, now with a sound of fear, that someone she is falling behind. “Are you frightened that you are losing touch with the younger generation, since their cultural references are so different than yours?” I ask, thinking that a part of this beratement is a result of her  realization that she is entering a new phase of life. “Yes, that is so right on,” she says with great enthusiasm. “I am just so shaken by how fast technology is changing and how hard it is to keep up,”  she says with dismay. “You sound like there will be some test at the end of the week,” I respond, pointing out that Vivian treats life like an academic challenge, where she is constantly competing to be the best, but that competition comes from a deeply insecure core.  “It must be really hard to accept all that you don’t know and  all that you can’t consume, ” hoping that she will begin to see that accepting limitations is part of an ongoing maturation. “Yes, that is hard for me, but on the other hand, wanting to stay current motivates me to explore new media,” Vivian says, reminding me that her competitive side has some benefits and it is not all about insecurity. “Yes, it would be great if you could bottle the part that propels you forward and discard the part that makes you hate yourself.” I say, trying to parse out the components of her personality.  “Maybe I will try to read a book,” Vivian says as she leaves,  as if she is winking at me to suggest that she is still on her own case.

4 Responses to “Media Consumption”

  1. Ashana M said

    I have precisely the same media habits. “Watching” video really means listening to video while I do something else–usually read. Or, I read the subtitles and listen to something else. But before we had so many devices, didn’t people sit around the TV and knit or talk to their families? Is watching TV while you text a friend substantially different than what I grew up doing–snapping beans and carrying on a conversation with my grandmother, or reading a book and looking up periodically to make some comment about it to someone else? Was it ever the case that people really did only one thing at a time in their leisure moments? I suspect sometimes there are fewer changes than we really think. It’s just that we didn’t notice what we were doing before, and since it looks different, we think it must be different.

  2. Shelly said

    What I don’t understand is what Vivian means by being stressed by which media to consume and how this is connected to being connected. Is it if one doesn’t watch the “right shows” then one isn’t up to date? If one isn’t on Facebook and Twitter then one doesn’t live in the 21st century? Is Vivian worried that she is missing something by not tuning into everything all at once? Does wanting to stay current mean being “in the know” with all the hot shows on tv? How does Vivian relax? Does she use media to relax or as a tool, another thing on her “to do” list?

    • Yes, you raise the point, that even in leisure time, Vivian has a sense of anxiety and “not doing enough.” This is part of her uncomfortable internal dynamics which she wants to change. Thanks.

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