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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Content overload: dealing with evolving media

My family recently subscribed to the streaming service known as “Sling TV.” In addition to our life-preserving Netflix account, this new membership was saluted by my ultra-practical mother for its capability to live-stream television from any device, anywhere, at any time.

Now, negotiations over the shared screen are extinct; she can watch her favorite Lifetime movies while I simultaneously screen Shark Week. This isn’t a sponsored endorsement for the television product, but rather an illumination of the subconscious allure that addicts us to streamable content.

In our technology-dominated and motivated culture, content defines us as individuals as pertinently as religion, clothing or diet does. Some are Breaking Badists, others Orange is the New Blackers, and many Stranger Thingians. As a platform of identity that both separates and unites us, content functions through a common collective: emotions and interpretations.

We differ, however, by what we watch, and how we watch it. Content itself is an extensive mass of images, sounds and people—inclusive of any show, film or video accessible via cable or the internet. Music and literature excluded, I consider content, generally, to be a reflective and reflexive portrayal of our reality. Essentially that’s what we watch, and why we watch: to ruminate in the imitative displays of our lives.

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Apart from convenience, this dynamic motivates subscribers, like my mom and I, to buy into multiple content streaming services. But is our loyalty to multiple sources really necessary to experience content? Sure, seemingly infinite choices are sublime, but attempting to surf the sea of Netflix, Hulu and YouTube drowns me in waves of content. When I do uncover a supremely avant-garde show or film, I must commit to a specific source. However more often than not, I find myself settling for a terminally-mediocre show just to get my fix.

This overload of content seems to be the secret to our beguilement. Our vulnerability to the superabundance of content stems from the commonplace cornucopia of products and services  that we subconsciously expose ourselves to.

Of course, this variation parallels the natural heterogeneity of humans, but our culture profits from dissimilarity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the diversity in content; I prefer “Seinfeld” over “Friends,” and “House of Cards” instead of  “Gilmore Girls,” but a single source with these choices would be expedient.

One ultimate provider of content would unite us rather than segregate the cable-classicists from the Netflix-elitists.

As an echo of our existence, content inherently unites us but disengages us from the collective through singularity. I don’t supplicate myself to Netflix for the social benefits, but instead to isolate myself from negativity and to retreat to a pseudo-reality.

No matter how much I imagine myself as a quasi-Mad Men character smoking cigarettes and drinking all day, I can recognize the severance of this reality from the one I participate in daily.

For most of us, however, content has transcended the screen, and saturated our concept of reality. No longer do fictional characters remain bound to their own space, but become featured figures in our perceptive lives.

Since we can’t completely escape reality, we seek refuge in content. In this way, the singularity we consciously observe becomes magnified through the content we ingest, causing us to routinely return to and seek out its familiarity.

Ultimately content will continue to evolve and become increasingly more accessible. Perhaps our sequestered lives can only function through content and may unite us, no matter how much we try to eclipse individual reality. To escape the domination of streamable content, I encourage you to invite the spontaneity of material content into your reality and experience life, or at least turn off the TV.

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