Inventory and Evaluate

As we approach the twenty-first century,
popular culture is taking the lead
in establishing a sensibility,
not of intense involvement,
but of cool detachment.

~  Kenneth A. Myers, AGCaBSS

sen•si•bil•i•ty   The quality of being affected by changes in the environment
                  Acute perception or responsiveness toward something.

I can’t forget the frustration I felt whenever I talked to a certain childhood friend.  She never really focused on my eyes, but looked hither and yon.  Dialog was always staccato as she interrupted me and interrupted herself – on the slightest pretext.  I never felt like she was actually listening to me.  For me, my friend is the prototype of the detached style of communicating which, today, is the norm.  Face to face conversations are punctured by incoming text and incoming calls, our own personal version of “breaking news.” 

Sensibility is the key word in Myers’ final chapter, Where Do We Go From Here?  We are urged to not be dominated by the sensibility of popular culture (self-centered, obsessed with the new, immediate, sensuous, spectacular) but to build a culture of transcendence (truth, goodness, beauty, permanence, long-term rewards). 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

But what does that look like?  Because these are wisdom issues there isn’t a clear-cut method of evaluation.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a weekly pop culture weigh-in that would indicate our over-consumption? Even that wouldn’t measure how we are being affected by the technology or if we were deliberate or thoughtless in our engagement.   

Like so many areas in life, we need reminders.  It was a wake-up call for my husband and me on our last family backpack that 85% of the conversation revolved around quoting movies and television shows.  Where we used to sit around the table and talk (!) we often stand around the screen and show each other the latest You-Tube wonder.  We voice our concerns to our grown children; they make their own choices.  

Our rule with television has always been that people are more important than programs.  If someone stopped by for a visit, the TV went off and we focused on people.  What message does it send when you visit someone, they look over and say hello and then turn back to the tube?  I think we need to train our children in the etiquette of cell phones.  Do you take a call anytime?  How can we use technology in a way that doesn’t separate real life relationships?

Here is my own pop culture checkup:

•  Blogging  I started blogging in 2005 to stay in touch with my son at college.  Blogging in 2009 has nothing much to do with communicating with my family (I think my brother is the only family who might read it); but I enjoy the connections across the country.  Has my family benefited or suffered with my blogging time?  I am guilty of neglect.
•  Facebook  I joined Facebook because that is the medium my kids prefer to communicate the stuff of their lives. Face it: I like Facebook!  It can be trite, it can be banal.  But I do like the way I can check in my friends overseas, see pictures of my grandson, eavesdrop on clever repartee and see small segments of friends’ lives.  It eats time like Godzilla eats women.  (does Godzilla eat women?  I really don’t know!)
•  Movies and DVDs  I love Netflix.  It allows me to be more deliberate in my viewing (I detest roaming the aisles of Blockbuster wondering what to watch) and gives me access to films which are out of the mainstream, particularly indies and foreign films.  I find it really helps to dovetail our movies with our studies.  In the winter we get one-at-a-time unlimited; in the summer we switch to the $4.99 plan. 
•  Telephone  We have Caller ID but still take blocked calls.  Getting on the National Do Not Call list was the best phone decision we’ve had.  We also have Call Waiting, but it serves to tell us someone else tried to call.  I call back after the current phone call is completed.  We decide to take or not take a call during dinner on a case-by-case basis. 
•  Magazines  I’ve become more suspicious of general magazines.  We take World and Cooking Light.  There are several I would enjoy but their ephemeral nature and my to-be-read pile push me toward books.
•  Newspaper  If I lived in a metropolitan area, I could very easily see myself immersed in the daily reading of the paper.  The ephemeral nature applies here, too. Our local paper lets me know who died and what’s on sale and can be read in ten minutes. 
•  Television  If I wasn’t married to my husband this would be a problem.  If it didn’t take up so much time, I could lose myself in the baseball season.  I really hate being in homes where the TV is on during every waking hour.  I cringe at the thought of TV being the default noise in the home. 
•  Radio  I enjoy streaming classical stations on the internet.  I could devote hours to Pandora or magnatune.com.  When we take car trips we usually listen to a bit of talk radio. 
•  Cell Phone  It’s become a badge of honor, a matter of pride to see how long we can go without getting one.  The great thing about this medium, unlike Facebook, is that I can connect with people with cell phones without needing one myself.  I can think of a dozen great applications for cell phones, they just don’t apply to our family.  If we had a daughter driving, she would have a cell phone faster than you can say Verizon Wireless. 

I don’t expect your list to remotely resemble mine.  But I do believe it is a good thing to think over the reasons why you do or don’t use the technology available to us.  Inventory and evaluate.  One thing is clear to me.  If I don’t want to be distracted, I need to turn the computer off.  We use the computer for school, but there is much we can do before we turn it on.  I lose/loose my focus too easily with it. 

There are many spin-offs of this discussion.  How important is it to have a pulse on popular culture?  Is it necessary to read best-sellers and watch top shows in order to have “talking points” with our neighbors?  Where is the balance?

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10 thoughts on “Inventory and Evaluate

  1. I like this idea of evaluating each of the medias we use. I may try it also. So far FB hasn’t been a big time waster for me. I haven’t even begun to haunt profile’s yet. Maybe this summer. I still get Southern Living because if you live in the south it is a requirement.I wonder if Dana gets it.

  2. I like the quote and appreciate your thoughts.  For myself, I’ll have to ponder a bit more.  But, I will say that Facebook is slowly growing on me.  I don’t see it becoming a huge time-waster though as I’m not interesting in poking, tweeking, giving gifts, much less playing games over there.Even though I did get a flat tire out on the road yesterday, I hate having a cellphone and rarely use it.  I can’t wait for the day when all the kids are grown and I can throw mine away.

  3. This is great, we try to live as simply as possible as well, although I do allow myself some perks like Turner Classics Movies from the 40s etc. and we love viewing the Duggar Family show etc. thus a cable plan that works for our pcs, phones etc. with t.v. channel blocking capabilities (which we use to the max, believe me!) : )I’m scared of getting on FB!  : O  I am truly afraid it will finish me off!  I truly am!  Just as you described!  LOL  Xanga has been a temptress enough with my time…I greatly enjoyed your entry here!    Blessings!

  4. I never considered all of these things you list pop culture, but I suppose they really are in a way.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a weekly pop culture weigh-in thatwould indicate our over-consumption? Even that wouldn’t measure how we are being affected by the technology or if we were deliberate or thoughtless in our engagement.    I fear I am more drawn to these things than I realized, things I was so careful about once upon a time have made their way in through this thing here, my pc.  All very interesting, convicting, and disturbing.

  5. Such an excellent post, Carol!!   I love it when you (and Cindy) make such fine applications of the reading, as opposed to my synopsis-brand of posting.  So, well done!I have been contemplating an entry about *wasting* time but couldnt figure out a good way to present it.   But my basic premise is the underlying fact that we all do; we always have; and we always will.It’s the verb (waste) that is the key.So, I’ll let you know when I figure it out.BTW we get Southern Living at the office. 

  6. Hey Carol – good stuff, this….The only different thing we’ve done is made a family decision to ban facebook -not hard, since my kids are little, so pretty much it’s a decision that the adultsaren’t going to FB. I got into it for awhile, and found that I didn’t have the discipline to use it appropriately… AND, there was something really disconcerting about the way it messed up the natural order of things to me – for example, just because I really enjoyed person X in high school, that doesn’t mean that we should be emailing or commenting on one another’s comments almost daily – because then she suddenly became more ‘in the loop’ than my very closest friends who might not be on Facebook.. then, for what do we need class reunions?? That’s one silly example.. but it was chastening, somehow. I think it’s a grand tool. I wish I could give it appropriate place in my life… but it’s not gonna happen.Reading your stuff, dear Carol, is shaping and challenging me in specific and important ways. Thank you!!!!joyfully,Steph

  7. Carol, this book is just one more instance of your influence – when you first mentioned it I remembered that I had bought the book but had read only a little bit of it. Now I have started it again and am finding it very thought-provoking as is your post here. I’m afraid I will end up not taking the time to think through all the points that you made. So much to do and so little time…And Facebook does take some of my time. For me, that has turned out to be a wonderful tool to reconnect with many former students, one of whom I met for lunch yesterday. The total number is now over 40 and it has been a real blessing to me.

  8. This is a very though-provoking post. My rule of thumb is: face-to-face if possible, phone is 2nd best, e-mail ONLY if there is nothing emotional involved.  You didn’t mention iPods.  I love having my whole musical library at my fingertips, but noticed that it kept me in my own world and closed off conversations with those around me. Now I’m not using it at all.  There must be a happy medium somewhere that I could find!

  9. It has taken me time to get around to reading this. I’m sorry about that! I appreciated your post, though, and also all of your thoughts throughout the book club. I like your weigh-in idea. I’ll have to try that! 🙂

  10. @PoiemaPortfolio – Thanks for the reminder about ipods.  I have two: a Cadillac of an Ipod my siblings gave me for my birthday and a non-Mac MP3 player that works on a library site for downloading audio books.  And I use mine too much.  There are times when I am listening to a good book, and want to hear more.  I also need to go shopping.  I am so tempted to put the little ear buds in (which my hair covers up) and listen as I get groceries.  But that does close me off to conversations in the produce aisle.  And in a small town, you are always bound to run into someone.  On the plus side, my son had a job on a farm the last two summers.  For the most part it was solitary manual labor of a repetitive nature.  His boss suggested he have an ipod.  Collin used it for music occasionally, but has listened to a growing list of chunky classics (e.g. War and Peace, Pride and Prejudice, Martin Chuzzlewit) while he worked.I am certain that I miss out on time for reflection when I have ear buds in.  Balance!  Oh to find the balance!@Brandy Afterthoughts – Brandy, I feel like I’ve found a new friend.  I also appreciated your thoughts and contributions to the conversation.  Thanks!

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