There are some things you can just never get away from. Like cell phones, Lady Gaga, and mullets and the county fair they are everywhere. As I sat in Borders a few weeks ago it occurred to me that pop-culture is like that. I was reading and drinking my coffee while music played over the air waves, magazine covers proclaimed news (and not news) to me, and my daughter watched cartoons on my iPad. There was simply no escaping pop-culture, despite the fact that I have been on a self-imposed hiatus from such things since February.
Since starting this experiment I have learned much about myself. Recently, however, one of the most intriguing realizations was about others and the role they play in my cultural awareness. In my pop-culture fast I have found it difficult to be isolated and uninformed; instead, what I have found is that in the absence of cultural indulgence I have found more cultural engagement.
Since breaking from television and leisure internet use I have not found myself out of the loop, at least not to any great degree. I didn’t miss the storm that is Rob Bell’s new book (though I wish I had), and I haven’t missed news about earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear meltdowns. I haven’t missed the NFL player lock out (or Ochocinco’s attempts to play professional soccer). Even while I have attempted to cut back my pop-culture intake I have still received much information via my friends and family.
And what’s interesting is that because I haven’t just been reading random blog posts and news articles I have engaged my friends on these subjects, and countless more important issues, at a deeper level. I ask more questions, I listen more carefully, and generally I have more conversations. Now that my TV is off and my computer is shut down I have conversed more and indeed learned more through thoughtful conversation. Even just last week my wife and I spent the evening discussing more specifically than ever issues about our vision and strategy for parenting, things that we both just assumed but never talked out. It has proved immensely helpful and clarifying for our home.
We here at CaPC believe strongly in the importance of communication and dialogue about cultural artifacts, not just consumption. The truth is, however, for many of us (for me at least) the enormous amount of pop-cultural intake that occurs daily can easily lead to careless consumption. This three month break has lead not only to less consumption, which is generally good, but increased thoughtfulness as well. This is more generally a problem of information overload than of pop-culture in general, and I definitely don’t want to communicate that you should only receive second and third-hand information. Nonetheless the important point for me has been the renewed development of cultural conversations. My hiatus has not left me in the dark. In fact, thanks to my community, it has given me more light.