Too Much Entertainment

Once upon a time, I was in ninth grade and there were two things I liked more than almost anything (besides reading): music and video games (namely Pokémon and Unreal Tournament). So when I came home from a rough day of being a freshman in high school, I would blow off steam by sitting in front of the family computer (that is, if the seat wasn’t already occupied by my brother) and destroying pixelated soldiers in Unreal Tournament.

One day I had the brilliant idea to enhance my killing sprees by listening to music while playing the game. So I was merrily running along in a fictional militaristic world, flak cannon in virtual hand, blasting enemies into freshets of imaginary blood while listening to Bon Jovi. Pure nerdy bliss. My blood pressure was low, my ears were filled with the sounds of the game and the music, and then my mom looked over at me and said, “Maggie, that’s too much.” (Or something like that. At the time, I was angry at having my joy interrupted and didn’t bother to remember her exact words.)

That was back in 2002, before everyone on God’s green earth had a cell phone, before social media really took off, before mp3 players and iPads and Kindles, and before video games looked so realistic that you couldn’t tell the difference between animation and a live-action movie. I feel sorry for teenagers today, who have three or four times as many modes of entertainment and thus three or four times as many distractions. It’s not just too much. It’s way too much.

I help with my church’s youth group, and this past Sunday’s session was about how we are consumed by technology, social media, materialism, and other modern-day distractions. The teenagers were given a slip of paper on which they were asked to estimate the number of hours per day they spent on social media, browsing the Internet, texting, and so forth. The findings weren’t shocking to me or any of the adults present, especially because a few of the teenagers were tied to their phones during the night. Even so, we hoped the exercise made them realize that there was a lot of unnecessary “noise” in their lives and that the noise can prevent them from being able to sit in silence, to meditate, and to pray.

We taught the teenagers that there is a simple solution to escaping from all the “noise,” and that is spending time before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, AKA Eucharistic Adoration. Just a few minutes of silence and/or prayer per day can put things back in perspective and stop the noise long enough to help one remember that the world and all its distractions will pass away, and all the “entertainment” we have can never fill the gap in our souls that yearns for God.

Cell Phone Rant

To quote the Katy Perry song: “I just wanna throw my phone away / Find out who is really there for me.”

If I were to rewrite the song, it’d go something like this: “I just wanna throw my phone away / Instead of getting a new battery.”

These days, my phone can barely hold a charge, so it has to be tethered to its charger at all times with the WiFi and the data turned off. Why not get a new battery? Because honestly, I can’t be bothered. I want to exchange my phone for an old-fashioned flip phone, or at least one that has the little slide-out keyboard so I can text faster than one character a minute.

A few months ago, I made the horrible mistake of syncing my work email to my cell phone, so whenever I have a spare second or if I’m not thinking of anything in particular, I check my work email when I’m not at work. This can lead to much vexation, groaning, and workaholism, as I find myself thinking of work when I really ought to unplug. Easy solution: The problem could be solved simply by deleting my company’s email app from my phone. Counter-argument: What about emergencies? (At least that’s the excuse I make.)

I try to keep the number of apps on my phone to an absolute minimum, so the battery doesn’t drain any faster and so I don’t become one of those zombies who texts behind the wheel and walks around in public with her eyes glued to her phone. (Or one of those awkward millennials who’s sitting in a room full of live human beings but staring at the glowing screen in her lap.) It’s irritating when you’ve just cleared your notifications, then five seconds later, you get another one and the light on your phone begins an incessant, annoying blinking. That’s the point at which I put my phone face down on my desk and ignore it. Ain’t nobody got time for all those notifications.

What’s your worst pet peeve about your cell phone?

Vine’s Been Cut Down

If you follow this blog, you probably know I’m not a fan of social media (ironic, considering blogging is a form of social media, but anyway…). So I was happy to hear about the demise of Vine,* which is basically YouTube with a much shorter attention span, where users post 6-second videos. Yes, you read that right. Six seconds of video, played on a loop until the viewer gets sick of it and it’s no longer amusing or funny or whatever it was supposed to be.

Apparently, Vine is being shut down (although the existing videos will remain in an archive) because it did not keep up with the innovative pace of Twitter, Snapchat, and other popular social media sites. Why did Vine not last? Perhaps because users wanted something with a little more substance, so they turned to YouTube. Maybe they wanted to upload pictures instead of videos, so they went on Instagram.

Oddly enough, I’ve also been hearing things about Twitter (the parent company of Vine) and Tumblr (owned by Yahoo!, which was recently bought by Verizon) also having problems. So maybe Vine represents the beginning of the end for social media in general, and we can all return to having face-to-face conversations instead of burying our heads in our phones all the time. I do recognize that this is an unlikely outcome because social media sites come and go all the time, but I can dream, right?

*But I was not happy upon realizing that Vine’s shutdown means that people will be out of jobs.