Two articles about media and consumer overload crossed my path this week, both of them focusing on the curious paralysis that comes when people are faced with too many media and entertainment choices. The first piece observes that with so many choices at our disposal, what should be entertainment starts to feel more like a chore:
The digital revolution has introduced us all to the life-altering phenomenon known as asynchronous entertainment. We can now enjoy movies, TV shows and our favorite media sources wherever, whenever, we want. But a decade into this monumental shift, the drawbacks are coming into focus. Episodes of “The Daily Show” and “Letterman” pile onto our DVR television recorders like copies of The New Yorker, begging to either be consumed or wastefully discarded. Netflix movies line up on our shelves like airplanes on a runway waiting to take off. And all of those blog postings relentlessly flood into our Web browsers every hour, every day. There’s certainly not time for all of it. Is this entertainment? It feels more like homework.
There is a point at which too much input and entertainment can start to feel like it's dragging us down isn't there? Which leads me to the second article, which focuses more narrowly on consumers who can't keep up with their Netflix movie queues. There isn't an obvious spiritual connection, but the following quote strikes me as an astute summary of our hyper-connected culture:
"It's a paradox of abundance," said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of culture and communication at New York University. If people aren't pressured to see a movie in a specific time frame, he said, viewers tend to put it lower on their priority list. "When you have every choice in front of you, you have less urgency about any particular choice," he added.
Have you ever spent more time organizing browser bookmarks or arranging RSS feeds than actually reading them? Looking at the number of unread items in my RSS reader and the unwatched movies on my Netflix queue, I'd definitely agree that one of the most challenging aspects of participating in online culture is simply finding a way to keep up with all of the input we receive.