Tyler’s media diary: Using data to break bad habits

I had a suspicion going into this assignment that I’ve developed a few really bad media consumption habits:

  • I spend too much time on Twitter, which is skewing my perception of news coverage.
  • I “graze” way too much, opting for reading headlines instead of reading stories. This means I’m much less informed than I think.
  • My desire to be constantly “in the know” means I almost compulsively check social media first thing in the morning, throughout the day and last thing at night, so it’s more difficult to balance my media diet.

After tracking my media consumption from Feb. 15 through Feb. 20, I can confirm all of these three bad habits are true. The problems may actually be underrepresented, given that this period was a fairly atypical week (as I’ll explain).

Because I wanted to track media consumption across multiple platforms, I opted not to use RescueTime and noted everything manually in a Google Spreadsheet as the week went on. I cross-checked entries with my Google calendar, browsing history and Twitter history to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I didn’t count reading email, unless there was some specific content there that fit the definition of “media” (a newsletter, for example).

The first big finding is pretty glaring: Social media accounts for nearly a third of the time I spend consuming media. Break that down further, and you can see that within the social media category, Twitter takes a lot of the air out of the room.

Twitter is followed by Reddit, which I mostly consume at night before I go to sleep (I also need to cut down on how long I play video games, an issue I blame solely on Stardew Valley).

I’ve made a concerted effort over the last few weeks to spend less time on Facebook, which is why it appears so small in the chart.

One thing to note about the time period recorded: Over the long weekend, I took an out-of-town trip with friends to a spot without great Internet service. I suspect that if I were to repeat the media diary for the next few weeks, there’d be even more Twitter usage, although this may be offset by more media consumption in general.

If I had to guess before taking a closer look at the numbers, I would have said I spend far more time consuming media by phone than by laptop. That’s clearly untrue.

Also of note: I despise online video. Although I didn’t graph this particular breakout, almost all the video I consume is through the TV (in this case a Roku stick), and not through mobile or laptop. And although I do often listen to podcasts, NPR or other broadcast media, I didn’t really do that over this time period.

So despite some data collection problems, it’s pretty clear I’ve got some media consumption issues I want to address:

  • Spend less time on┬ásocial media — specifically Twitter.
  • Seek out platforms that use more than just immediacy as the driver for news judgement: Instead of the “happening now” on Twitter, find what news editors think is important on the home pages of local and national news organizations.
  • Change the nighttime routine: Use the evening to read physical media or dive deeper into stories flagged online earlier in the day.

Two tools I think will help are Nuzzel, which alerts you to stories being shared often in your timeline, and Pocket, which allows you to save stories and other content you see through either your mobile device or laptop to read later. I’ve already signed up for these services, but I don’t use them often enough to help me consume more content, instead of just reading headlines.