College Cured My Media Addiction and I’m Not That Happy About It

Illustration by Deema Alawa

Before coming to college, I was a self-diagnosed media junkie. In high school, I consumed information feverishly in the form of books, audiobooks, podcasts, documentaries, YouTube videos, and online magazines and newspapers. Despite a heavy course load with several AP classes and an after-school job, I didn’t find it challenging to stay up to date. During this time I was able to stay informed on all the latest news in politics, art, literature, and even science. I have never felt more knowledgeable or confident about what I could offer to conversations or class discussions. I loved the feeling of being able to contribute an opinion formed from actual knowledge of a subject. 

In college, I imagined, I would continue this rapid consumption of books and news and everything else. I would continue to be on top of current events and what was happening in, say, the art world. But this wasn’t the case. 

It is hard to understand the dynamic of living away from home on a college campus until you experience it. One of the things that no one tells you is that empty moments are a scarcity. At home, even when I had homework to do, I would have time to myself before dinner or in the morning while doing my makeup or when sitting in traffic on my way to work. I don’t experience many empty moments in college. I live with someone else, I share a communal bathroom, I eat dinner in a crowded dining hall, and I travel—for the most part—with at least one other person at all times. 

Would I rather listen to NPR while sitting in Los Angeles traffic or talk to my friend who is sitting in the passenger seat and grew up in a different state? Would I rather read a book about the racial divide in politics or attend a lecture hosted by the woman who wrote it? 

There is also the pressure of gaining experiences in college. I don’t mean pressure to go to parties or do drugs or anything like that. I mean the pressure to try new foods, to travel to new places, and to have interesting conversations with thoughtful people who somehow ended up in the same room as you despite the fact that they grew up an ocean away. There is so much to empirically learn in college. Sometimes, when I do catch empty moments, I feel guilty. Can’t I always read this article later? Maybe I won’t have a chance to talk to the other person who is sitting alone in the common room. 

This type of learning through experience is an entirely different way to stay informed. I am not just reading words about issues or the opposing position, but meeting people with lives and opinions and stories. 

Ideally, one does have to choose between going out with a friend and keeping up with current events. The stories that friends and books and newspapers tell are all equally as important. Yet, between being a full-time student who writes ten-page essays far too often and going to work, it can be difficult to pick up the newspaper for even ten minutes. 

I wish I could explain why it is so daunting. Maybe ten minutes a day won’t make my grades drop dramatically, but sometimes I feel that way. 

Now that my first year of college is ending, I can only try my best to be better. When I get one of those rare quiet moments when everything is still, I grab my book. When I walk to class, I put in my headphones and listen to NPR or This American Life. When I have a free minute on the computer before class, I skim through the top stories on the Atlantic website. I wish I made more time for reading the news, but at the same time I am not willing to give up my time due to the infinite supply of intriguing people who surround me. I need to figure out how to incorporate both aspects of being an informed individual into my life. 

For now, I will renounce my addiction to media and stave off until the summertime. 

By Megan Loreto

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