Can we ever consume too much media?

Modern media is like having a guy live at your house that crams food down your gullet each morning, afternoon and night. Even when the tears began to stream and reflexes kicks in, nothing convinces this once-welcome guest that enough is enough – that we’re simply unable to take anymore.

Our consumption of mass media, often masquerading under the guises of culture, is forcibly gluttonous. That’s not to say we don’t desire a portion of it, but our psychological want far exceeds our appetite, or ability register that which we’re presented with. The change in cultural consumption can, in fact, be correlated to the change in food consumption. Due to the mass availability of previously scarce products – whether that product is meat or, for example, film – our ability to appreciate the moments we do enjoy each product naturally diminishes. How much we’re able to enjoy has reached a terminal velocity as, whilst such things are available to us in abundance, we have not gained more hours in a day, nor do we mentally, culturally or socially possess the ability to appreciate a thing we have come to take for granted.

The short answer is, yes: we can consume too media. But this is arguably only a symptom, depending on how we view the cause and effect relationship between production and consumption. Humans find it hard to refuse a distraction, no matter how base or mundane. Secondly, the ever-increased avenues through which media is filtered has led to an infiltration. We can’t turn a corner of our homes or on the streets without being presented by something attention-grabbing – whether it’s an advertisement, a video, a trailer, email, social media, etc.

And if we’re not prepared for the hard stuff – the aspects of culture, such as film, that require our appreciation or response – what remains is the diluted, watered down culture, invariably shoddier but certainly easier to digest, and which is rapidly becoming the main form produced.    

Take Netflix as an example. The ramping number of Netflix-produced programmes shows that once the media funnel has been proven, it’s crammed and overloaded, and quality is typically compromised to accommodate the uncapped aspirations for quantity. Similarly, whilst critically acclaimed (and rightly so) TV shows and films may be showered with awards, they are seldom responsible for exponential profit growth. Dilution has produced a dependency on dilution – the sort of media that can be easily poured over the rifts and joints of our modern lives, sharing the background space with the other innumerable sources of consumption, not least is that which is presented to us via our computers and smartphones. Beyond this, we rarely discriminate over quality.

In past blogs we’ve talked about the lack of distinction between advertisements and content, creating a huge market for the likes of sponsored content. Our growing inability to distinguish between entertainment and advertisement points to the fluidity of each of these forms, in that content, such as media, film, music, etc. is scarcely distinguishable from itself. Quantity has so rapidly eroded the boundaries between good and bad, advertisement and content, that the need to judge quality barely exists at all. Rather, what matters more is that the continuous stream is not stemmed, and we remain within a matrix of continuous, indistinctive and greyed-out content, abiding increasingly regular release schedules and, often, feeding from the carcasses of once-credible IPs.