Call For Comments: Inertia and Media Addiction

From Mav: There’s something I’ve noticed about fans of the TV show The Walking Dead. They hate it. Seriously… most people I know who watch the show pretty much acknowledge that they’re not really enjoying it anymore, they’re just watching it because… they do. They have been watching it and they continue to. I’m not a fan of the show, I never started watching it. But I get it. I’m the guy who bought every single issue of the comic Nomad, long after I knew it had started to suck. There’s something about becoming invested in a show, or a comic book, or a band. It sort of becomes a thing where you feel like it’s almost your job to keep up with it.

Why is that? Is it just the collection aspect? You have some of it, and you want to have it all for completionist sake? Is it a hope that the thing that you think is now bad will return to being good again and you don’t want to be lost in the narrative when it does? Is it just devotion to the glory days… remembering when you used to like it and just not wanting to let go?

I feel like there are a lot of things like this. It’s hard to let go of something you are devoted to. But why? Isn’t it just a waste of time to just keep investing in something that you no longer care about or are we just not capable of stopping? Does social media fit in here too? I often hear people talk about how they now hate facebook or twitter or instagram… but they continue to use it. Is it a real addiction? Are we really incapable of stopping or is there something more.

From Wayne: Like anyone involved in any hobby I’m guilty of this behavior as well. Over the years I have stuck with certain comics series well after I was really enjoying them. Some of it is inertia, some of it is simply the need for closure. Part of the nature of comic books for years is that they are built on the idea of “What happens next?” Tune in next time, next issue, next episode , next whatever to find out when we finally wrap things up. But they never actually wrap things up. That’s the long con to keep readers/viewers coming back. If you wait for a good jumping off place you’ll never be free. Even though we know this we still feel a need for an ending, a clean break.

I’ve had many customers at the comics shop over the years who have expressed a level of burnout with the books they are reading. This usually happens with the old school Marvel and DC fans. Yet when I try to steer them to different titles or different companies they are remarkably resistant to change. One guy, whose pattern was to buy a lot of books every week, all the while bitching about every one of them, asked me what I would recommend. My response was a serious, “A new hobby? Because this one obviously brings you no joy.” The answer confused him momentarily, but he was back the next week, buying the same old same old and being miserable about it. He moved a decade or so ago but I assume he’s a regular at another shop somewhere, still bitching about X-Men while buying every issue.

I make a living from these addictions. Maybe it’s not in my best interest to try and resolve it.

From Katya: Fortunately, Wayne, we resolve nothing on this show. Although, the World Health Organization added video game addiction to their International Classification of Diseases so the stability of your shop sounds may be jeopardized by medical treatment since, presumably, media addiction of any kind would fall within the same criteria.

The WHO calls it “gaming disorder”: “a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Which more or less makes it like most other behaviors: it’s fine until its not. Adding video game addition to WHO’s standards, off which many countries and companies based their insurance procedures, just means that people experiencing true addiction that’s destructive can get help.

This is the problem of using “addiction” to talk about excessive media production, in common usage we often say someone is “addicted” to video games, movies, television, or what-have-you when they do it a lot. In the examples Wayne and Mav raise, they’re not really talking about “addiction” in its actual medical usage where the behavior is actually destructive. It’s more like following routines or habits that are hard to break, whether or not we’re actually “addicted” to them.

I think discussing the pathologizing of media consumption is something to consider alongside the more common habits of binge watching and media driven inertia that Wayne and Mav raise. Whether or not our common experiences rise to the level of the WHO’s definition, making gaming– or any other media consumption habit– into a disease to be treated changes how we understand our relationship with our everyday experiences of media.

At least we know us pod-people are all safe, media consumption is part of our jobs so continued and escalating investment in it is pretty much a requirement.

From Mav: Katya makes a good point here. There’s definitely a line we need to examine between medical and common usages of the word addiction. Which (if either, both or neither) is problematic and why? I’m also wondering about the way parents treat electronic media specifically because they’re afraid of their kids becoming addicted to it… that is the dreaded “screen time” limits… that are imposed because too much TV or video games will mean…. I dunno… as far as I can tell, it makes you grow up to go get a phD in popular culture one day… and no parent wants their kid to turn out like us. Anyway, those are the sorts of things that what we want to explore on the next show. What media are you addicted to and why do you think that is? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? What are the pros and cons? Let us know if you have thoughts and maybe would even like to join us on the episode. Oh, by the way, being addicted to THIS show is a good thing… and get all your friends addicted too.

3 Replies to “Call For Comments: Inertia and Media Addiction”

  1. I actually enjoy TWD. Most people are just upset with it because they kill off anyone and everyone. But hey Zombie Apocalypse here so……also if I get a second to watch anything at all during the day it’s always enjoyable…..as I am a parent of small beings I am generally always doing something crafts, laundry, cooking, trying to keep a resemblance of orderly cleanliness, getting slime out of hair……uhm……anything but getting to watch the only thing I DVR…….I will be lucky if I get to watch the rest of the season by next year….also if I get to finish a whole book in a week that’s a luxury.

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