Where Did All The Books Go?

[N.B.] – This post was written in response to keeping track of my media consumption habits for 48 hours]

The first thing I noticed in my media diary was the lack of books. Growing up, books have always played a large part in my life. I was always reading. Always. In grade school and high school, teachers would ask me what book I was on today and would be surprised if a book took me a full week to read – even if the page count exceeded 350 (150 in grade school.) However, when I recorded my media diary, I realized that I didn’t pick up a book to read just for fun even once. Upon further reflection, I discovered I could count on my fingers the number of books I’d read since I started college. The fact that I have only read nine books in the past year and half saddens me. With all the textbooks, I failed to notice this gaping hole in my media consumption. I’ve had time for television, time for movies, but not for books.

I don’t think I am the only person who has made this shift. In grade school, many of the children carried fun books around with their school books. The same, though to a lesser degree, in high school. Now, I rarely see anyone reading or hear hear them talking about the book their reading now. The fact that according to the nielsen report children ages 2-11 spend over 24 hours a week consuming TV and video also speaks to this shift. When I was small, I spent maybe 30 hours a year watching TV, a great difference from the 1,248 hours children today are spending. While I was on the low side of television watching among my friends, they would watch maybe 14 hours a week, still much lower than the current 24.

While I am sure this trend is partly related to the increased availability of technology, and the new gizmos and gadgets that have debuted since I was a child, technology is only partly responsible for this shift in tastes. Even with the distractions posed to me now that were not there before there is still no good explanation for my lack of reading. It is something I need to rectify.

The Ever Present App & Text

According to research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project about 85% of adults own a cell phone, I fact that only surprises me by being smaller than I would have guessed. I believe that everyone I know over the age of 15 has a cell phone even if, like my Uncle or Grandparents, they never use it. Cell phones, and increasingly “smart phones” have become increasingly ubiquitous and, with them, so have their functions. The Nielsen report has found that people generally send the most time on their phone texting, closely followed by using the internet. The most common use of a phone is no longer to call people.

Two years ago, I couldn’t have cared less about apps and texting, was perfectly happy with my hand-me-down flip phone, and really, really, didn’t want an iPhone, thank you very much. When my phone broke and my parents decided that we all should go ahead and switch to iPhones I named mine HAL after the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey because I felt the phone was too smart. It made me unconformable (and that was before Siri.) Now, I have an iPhone in addition to an iPad, am always interested to hear about the new app someone, usually my father, has discovered, and am more responsive to texts than most of my friends.

All About Me

So how do I stack up to my counterparts? I think very differently. Despite my smart phone and iPad, the time I spend with the various apps I’ve downloaded is very small. My phone is, surprisingly, mostly used as a phone. Very rarely, if ever, do I play games. The occasional Words with Friends sparing match, but I have never had the time or inclination to check out the games and websites I hear my friends talking about.  My iPad is usually used for email, Facebook, homework, or reading notes I’ve taken on my computer. Outside of Pages, Keynote and the Facebook app I rarely open any of the others. Usually just the occasional news app.

I prefer however to get my news through St. Louis Public Radio or the newspaper which I believe are both uncommon venues for most of my age group.

I think my media consumption habits say that I am someone who values news and video entertainment. This fits with my understanding of myself. I am interested in the production of TV shows and movies and enjoy watching and analyzing them. I believe it is important to be aware of one’s community but also of the world as a whole. It is important to be able to place events in a broader context in order to serve as a productive citizen. I try to shape my media consumption to fit with that view.


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