My relationship with media consumption has shifted over the last year and a half. It’s a mixture of living alone, trying to maintain healthy day-to-day habits, and the way that the pandemic has shifted a lot of content I used to consume into the streaming sphere. I had very little I used to follow as it came out, instead consuming it in bursts when I had time or wasn’t feeling well, or just needed a couch day. The pandemic changed how I rationed out my energy, my need for rest, and how I react to socializing, and that in turn changed how I consume media.
I’ve never really been one for watching stuff as it comes out. Not because I don’t like absorbing shows and stuff piecemeal, but because I grew up without access to most TV channels and not being allowed to watch most weekly programming, so I don’t think of show consumption in that way. In high school, as I started enjoying content that my parents didn’t approve of, I had to get it in secret and watch it just as secretly, which meant a lot of series binging. For instance, I watched the entirety of Scrubs on my iPod. It was an iPod 3, and it had a tiny little screen that I enjoyed most of Scrubs on (though I’d occasionally catch reruns on TV on the weekends when I could hide in the basement and pretend I was playing video games instead of watching shows like Scrubs and CSI which were forbidden because there was implied sex. That’s growing up in a conservative religious household for ya right there).
As an adult, I’ve made efforts to get into this sort of slow absorption of media, but it has never really stuck. The only thing I’ve ever even come close to following as it releases is Critical Role and that was for a single year before the pandemic happened, they stopped airing episodes, and then I fell off just about every show I was following. I have a decent record with the podcasts I follow and am caught up on, rarely falling more than a month behind unless I’m saving episodes for a long trip I have coming up, but even that is a bit hit or miss these days since I have gotten into the habit of just listening to one podcast until I’m all caught up, switching to another podcast, doing the same, and then switching again. I have enough of them at this point that, given my general listening habits, means I’m falling further and further behind with every passing week.
So now I have Critical Role, a dozen weekly podcasts, a few youtubers, a growing list of TV shows, and all my various video games. I can achieve a sort of parity eventually, where things are stable and I’m consuming desired content as it is produced, but throw in a live-show that’s being streamed online, a new show, or a limited period of access to a TV show off my to-watch list and suddenly I’m ignoring all of it for a week because it’s just so much to follow up on while also working full-time, writing in my free time, blogging, running D&D campaigns, and trying to work through video games I’ve owned for half a decade and never gotten around to playing.
Don’t get me wrong, having this much stuff I want to do is great, it’s just also exhausting. I am living very precariously these days, on the verge of collapse or of being overwhelmed, and having so many choices, even if they’re all good things, can easily tip me over. I missed a live show I bought a ticket to and though I can watch it still, I haven’t because I’ve just been swamped with stuff, with stress, with exhaustion, and have been leaning hard on my habits and routines to carry me through it all since the show came out. And there’s no space in all of that for two hours of watching a live show. I used to be able to listen to all that stuff, if not watch it, while I was working but the intensity of work the last several months has meant I barely have time to take breaks, let alone listen to a show.
I get it. I’m crying with a loaf of bread under my arm. But the stress and pace of my life leaves me little time to slow down and enjoy things. At the same time, if I didn’t stay this busy, the stress and solitude of my life as we enter another cold, dark, lonely winter would probably make me feel worse. It’s a delicate balance these days, and new obligations outside of their scheduled times just upsets it all. I’m going to go be grateful that I actually have stuff going on and finally got through the GBA pokemon games in my series replay so I can go back to falling asleep as I play pokemon (the batteries running out on my GBA every other day was bankrupting me and its so much nicer to be able to close the handheld system so it goes to sleep).