When I was in my first year of university I didn't have money for a television. My parents offered to send me an extra one from home but I didn't see a need for it. Right around that time peer to peer downloading services were starting to pop up and so everyone in my dormitory had entire hard drives filled with television, music and movies. We basically had no need for television whatsoever, everything was at our fingertips and so we went to town with it. We would binge watch television and movies like The Matrix and Fight Club and hang around the dorm after class. I had this compulsive desire to consume every ounce of culture out there. I was hungry for all of it, even the bad stuff. When I didn't know what to watch or listen to I asked around.
This kind of compulsive media absorption continued throughout college and when I first decided to move to Japan, I had a new culture full of media to absorb. My first 2 years out of school went the same, I was immersed in media. I wanted to know all the Matrix's and Radioheads of Japan, the things in pop culture which still had substance. I was even happy to know about some of the more shallow aspects of the culture just to understand further. In some aspects it helped with my Japanese because it included books and manga as well and this desire kept me motivated to eventually read novels in Japanese. Most of the time, however, it was really about absorbing the story and the overall feeling of the media, especially for the television and film, and so I watched with subtitles rather than risk not knowing what was going on.
In order to stay in touch with my own home countries culture, I'd watch western dramas while writing down vocabulary lists. I'd write out grammar sentences in Japanese while finally watching that sixth season of the Sopranos that I missed when it had first aired on HBO. I would review the JLPT test vocabulary while watching Boardwalk Empire. As soon as I was caught up with the latest episode I'd move back to Japanese television and binge watch fooling myself that I was studying. I learned a thing here or there, but for the most part, I was just watching television.
I was addicted and I didn't realize it until years later. There was an element of escapism that motivated me but there was also this desire to be a master of culture, where I could recognize and understand the impact of anything and everything in pop culture. I am a bit of an anthropologist by nature, but I let this desire to KNOW turn into a compulsion and a lazy one at that, where digital media was preferred over written word.
This fit right into living in Japan and I never realized how serious of a problem it was. I thought it was great that the Japanese Billboard would be a fully new list every week, it made room for some more interesting genres to appear along side the crap. Japan is addicted to culture the same way I was and so it enabled me even after I had decided to dedicate myself to studying. It surely slowed down my progress more than I could possibly imagine.
When I finally became passionate about living in the moment about 5 years ago, I was able to tear myself away from the screen. I realized just how much of my time and energy had been sucked from my life. Since then everything has changed. I feel much more at peace and I've made much more progress building the life I desire, but there are other aspects of living in society that have become complicated. I will talk more about the change in part 2.
I think media addiction it's quite a common and yet basically unidentified problem in our culture. We tend to just think of regular media consumption as a normal part of our lives while we are doing it because so many other people are doing it and everyone seems to know so much about what comes out. When we try to stop we realize how much of an addiction it really is. "What do I do?" Or maybe we know some other things we can do but none sound as easy and pleasing as watching another episode. We know how to binge! If we binge drink, don't people say we have a drinking problem? Is it any different with media?
Has anyone else been addicted to media consumption? How so?