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The Math of Media Consumption

Since I shared the amount of time (or lack thereof) I have on a daily basis for media, I thought it would be prudent to also provide the reason my estimate exists and the math that led me to my estimate.

My most recent round of rumination on this subject started about three months ago, when I once again had to come to grips with the fact that I have a love hate relationship with podcasts. I really like information (as you do), but I really am not a podcast listener. I force myself in times when audio is the easiest or only way to get a piece of information to listen to podcasts or audiobooks during my commute, but it is by no means my preferred form of media.

Enter Castro and my podcast listening was given a shot in the arm by the fact that the app enabled me to subscribe but not feel beholden to a large number of podcasts. Since then, however, I have culled the number of podcasts in my feed to a minuscule number by comparison to my previous list. Just like social media, the intent of this exercise is to cut down on the noise and make me feel as though the podcast habit that I am forming is not overwhelming in those situations where I need a break from audio-based information delivery.

You see, I took a seminar about four years ago on learning styles and found out that I am a “KVA” learner. KVA stands for the three learning styles, as defined by the seminar: Kinesthetic, Visual, Auditory. These three styles can be rearranged in whatever way you think makes most sense to your learning, but after working through the seminar over two days, I am sure “KVA” is my order. In short, it means that I learn in that order—with my hands, with my eyes, with my ears—and with each step in that order, my ability to multitask while still learning takes a hit. In other words, if I am listening to audio or even someone talking for long stretches of time, I basically can’t be doing anything else, especially if the information I am gathering from the audio source is something I desire to retain.

What my learning styles should communicate then is that podcasts and other audio forms are not high on my priority list when discussing the media I choose to fill my time. I have to focus when I listen to things; perhaps, in fact, a level of focus I may not want in my daily commute. What do I miss, outside the window or in the seat next to me, if I am focused on what is going on in my ears? Music is different because I do not generally listen to music to learn and retain information, but even then I don’t have a current habit that fits music into my daily routine. And in the end, the conversation about media consumption is all about focus: where am I putting my focus, where should I be putting my focus, and what is distracting me from those areas that deserve more focus?

A few things I would like to point out, as I transition into the actual math:

  • These are personal metrics.
  • I have decided to use round numbers, which of course are rarely accurate.
  • These metrics have nothing to do with judging the focus of or the importance of certain types of media to others.
  • If you are auditory learner first, maybe you listen to podcasts all the time and dislike reading while in motion. (Perhaps you always have audio on in the background, even.)
  • Your math will be different.

I will approach this paragraph much like a mathematical proof. I will start with a statement of fact or assumption and end the statement with the remaining hours left in the day (24). If we assume that technically there are twenty-four hours in a day that could be used for media consumption, in my ideal world, at least seven hours of those hours are for sleep (17). To be fair, I consume media all day long when I’m at work because I work in and on technology, but those media rarely garner my full attention, so I will assess that seven of my eight hours at work per day are “media free”, though this number is the most prone to fluctuation (10). As a general rule, I don’t consume media in the shower or bathroom (~1 hour), during and around meals at home (~2 hours1), and when I might be otherwise on the hook for another human beings’s safety (~3 hours), which I assess as about six hours (4). My commute is twenty minutes or so in each direction, so we will round that to an hour when I can consume media, but often choose not to due to the above exposition about auditory learning (3). So I have approximately three hours a day that I can generally devote solely to media consumption. Q.E.D.

In practice, this generally amounts to about an hour of reading or video-watching while eating lunch and two hours of video-watching, game-playing, or reading with my wife at the end of the day, once the kids have gone to bed. In reality, however, the numbers are never clean, I do still check social media, listen to audiobooks and podcasts, watch quick YouTube videos, etc. I don’t think most of these habits will ever change. In fact, removing podcasts from a list or social media apps from my phone don’t completely remove them from my mind nor does it mean that they suddenly don’t exist. The content continues to be created, just as with this blog, and people will continue to consume it, perhaps unlike this blog.

What can change however, as I have said in the past, is the deliberation that takes place when deciding how one wants to spend their time, divide their focus. I for one hope that I can show more deliberation, more focus, in the year(s) to come.

  1. I am the cook in our family; dinner normally takes at least an hour from start to finish to make, then there is eating it and clean up. This is the only timeframe I feel the need to explain in more detail.