I’ve created my own acronym OMCD – Obsessive Media Checking Disorder. There are many advantages to having instant access to information. Sometimes it is a good thing to be connected and knowledge – like finding out in real time which roads are still open and navigable for my flooded commute home yesterday or that the water source has been contaminated and should not be consumed.
But after how many photos, news stories, and videos does it become too much? Seeing the numbers for record rainfall did not make me feel better about my flooded basement. Hearing about the tragic deaths – animals and humans alike – due to the flooding could not be reversed by reading the fifth news article. Scanning through an ever-changing collection of user submitted pictures of the flood had no ROI. Perusing status updates on social media sites also failed to inspire greatness. So why do I continue to do it? OMCD.
Since the invention of cars and trains, people have said that you can’t look away from a car accident or a train wreak. Terms rubber necking and gapers block show that human nature is fascinated with disaster. The change isn’t in human nature, but in the medium that can satisfy the disturbing need. No longer is rubbernecking occurring as we pass by an accident. Now we are completely surrounded and engulfed by the accident: news stories, pictures, videos, Tweets, Facebook status, text messages. It is not once and done – it continues to creep back and steal the center of attention. It is no longer about being concerned or informed, it has crossed the line to become a disorder. It takes over some people’s lives. I wasted the majority of hours yesterday and today engrossed in the media stream of coverage.
The first time I remember being completely addicted to the media was after 9/11. Hours were invested looking at pictures and reading different people’s first hand accounts of events. This was before Twitter and Facebook – so I can only image how intense the emotional reaction would have been if that added to the media torrent (and how many additional hours it would have consumed). Ten years have passed, and media has become more addicting. Instead of looking at pictures of the flood in Central PA I could have bought snacks and bottled water and shared with the Emergency workers who have been out for hours on end. My goal for the future is to be less obsessive with checking updates; instead I could use that energy to try to change the world in small, positive ways.