Me, My Mom, and the Media

Adapted from a paper I wrote for Intro to Media and Society, where we were assigned a media log to record our media habits for five days.

No one pays that much attention to our daily exposure to media. Maybe it’s just showing my age, but what’s the point in observing our daily media habits besides exclaiming wow! I sure diddly do spend a lot of time on the interwebs! It can be an amusing exercise, sure, but it’s not like someone is going to enact meaningful change on their life from recording their media use for five days.

However, I did have one interesting observation: when I asked my parents (both of whom are in their 50’s), they had trouble pinpointing exactly what media was. Not how to use it– because I know from experience that they’re tech-savvy on some level– but identifying what is classified as media and what is not. Maybe, dear reader, you’re also a little confused. I can help with that!

Media is, very generally speaking, anything that is produced for a wide audience. This includes, but is definitely not limited to TV, books, radio, internet, advertising, and some social media. An easy way to think about media consumption is to lump everything into three major categories: recreational, functional, and ambient. Recreational is self explanatory– stuff you do for fun like playing video games; functional is using media for school work or just work work; finally, ambient is media that you experience in passing, like five minutes on your phone or billboards.

According to the American Press Institute, 88% of millennials get news, in some form, from Facebook. Not that the company makes that difficult, with widgets and the trending news feed. That number steadily drops as people get older, even with older millennials age 30-34. A TIME poll claims that Jon Stewart (beloved ex host of the Daily Show) is the most trusted news anchor in America. 

But back to my parents–

When asking for their habits, I texted them both, for the record. This is the exact text my dad sent me: “I use it a lot for my job. Less in my private life, but I appreciate the resources.” The first part is legit. He teaches middle school history, and kids love a good movie day. But I also happen to know my dad spends a lot of time playing online shooters and watching sports in his free time– both of which count as media. My mom was much more specific with the websites she used– Pinterest, online shopping, banking, etc– but not other media that’s not internet based.

This brings to a my major conclusion of this little exercise; perhaps the greatest factor of the “digital divide” is not the ability to use media, but the ability to recognize it in our daily lives. What does this mean? Nothing, maybe. I’m not even sure what it means. I just wanted to write this to get people thinking about media in a way that isn’t all doom and gloom, but I might revisit the topic later. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Cheers!