Sunday 13 January 2019

Nerd Church - Media Overload: Quality, Quantity, and Diversity

There is more media and entertainment in our world today than ever before.

Dude in front of TV screen with movie options displayed

Even putting to one side the numerous web-pages and status updates that are published every single second, the rate at which new books, films, TV shows, songs, etc. are being created and published is immense.

Which means that, as an individual, you will never live to consume each and every piece of what there is on offer.

Not even if you live to be 1000 years old.

(Not that, as the bookish folks we are, we don't give it a good try, but still!)

Which means, in practical terms, this: you can't watch, listen to, and read, everything.

So if you don't wanna watch something then don't. Simple.

...and complicated.

(Come on, it's me. Everything is always simple and complicated 😅)

Because on one level it really is that simple.

But on another level? We have to be aware of why we wanna watch certain things over others.

While it's ok to avoid things that you've tried and dislike, or things which you point-blank aren't interested in, that shouldn't be an excuse to avoid challenging yourself and your consumption at all.

Challenging ourselves is a good thing - even if the answer to that challenge turns out to be 'no.'

You would be surprised how much your choices are based on advertising/marketing, unconscious bias, and social norms.

Which means that even if you're lucky enough to have access to the world's best subscription media services at your fingertips, you're probably watching the same old mediocre stuff that side-lines diverse stories, voices, and creators.

I'm NOT saying you can't watch your faves - go ahead and watch the sh** out of them, especially if you're having a cr**py day!

What I'm saying, is that whether you think it is or not, the system is centred on a narrow narrative of white, allocishet, able-bodied, middle-class men with no other marginalisation.

Sure, there's some leeway in things, and things are starting (ever so slowly!) to get better - but those are the people that, consciously or not, companies view as their default audience.

You have to work at supporting diversity.

The platforms you use aren't likely to help you - the algorithms we use are prejudiced by human biases.

Netflix has recently come under fire for highlighting people of the same race as the viewer when they show thumbnail images.

This isn't a human decision - it's an algorithmic one.

Algorithms don't deal in ethics, they deal in probabilities.

We're more likely to click on pictures which show people 'like us' - in this case, of the same race as we are.

The algorithm learns that we click on pictures of, for example, white people, so it shows us more pictures of white people.

...Which leads to shows with minor black characters being marketed to black people using thumbnails which imply these black characters are in leading roles.

Meanwhile, films with black leads may find themselves being marketed with white minor characters to white audiences.

This is what happens when we consume without questioning.

Social biases are continually perpetuated. And that's cr*p.

So what can we do about it?

Well it's simple (...and complicated 😉) read diverse books, watch diverse TV shows and films, be aware of the narratives missing from your media and seek them out.

Through the bizarre algorithmic and consumer-capitalist societies in which we now live, those very actions have impact.

The data will get mixed up. The support will shine through.

Companies want to make money. So they make things they know will be popular.

Netflix SNL spoof - 'Here's money! Go!'
Via Giphy

You make Dear White People or The Hate U Give popular, you make LGBTQ+ stories popular, you make disabled lead characters popular... and you've changed the world.

Of course, we also need to challenge our definitions of 'quality.'

There's just a few points I wanna make here:

  • Diversity does NOT mean poor quality - there are good quality diverse stories and not-so-good quality diverse stories; if you don't think that ANY diverse stories are good quality, then diversity is not the problem

  • Quantity =/= quality

  • You are smart enough to understand anything, especially if you allow yourself to not get discouraged if you don't 'get it' right away

  • Pretentiousness =/= quality

  • You have a right to disagree with the opinions of others

  • Junk TV is awesome! As long as you're aware of how much trash you're watching, and sprinkle some less-trashy things in there when and if you want, you're good to go.

  • What some people think is junk is actually deep. They just can't see beyond their own pre-conceptions. Finding the depth in High School Musical takes a real deep thinker, and anyone who tells you otherwise is pretentious af. 😉

  • Diversity does NOT mean poor quality Diversity does NOT mean poor quality Diversity does NOT mean poor quality Diversity does NOT mean poor quality Diversity does NOT mean poor quality Diversity does NOT mean poor quality


But all this doesn't mean that we have to watch EVERYTHING!

You're one effing person for Christ's sakes! Stop putting so much pressure on yourself!

(In no way is this an instruction to myself *shifty glances*)

It's all about balance and context.

If you can't afford certain subscription services, or are too busy to sit down and watch a freaking 3 hour film, then you entertain yourself the ways you can.

There is NO shame in not having, for example, Netflix.

I can't afford Netflix, I'm just lucky that my brother currently has a spare device allowance and I'm enjoying it while I have it!

I also tend to get narked off at people who use 'must-watch,' 'you HAVE to see...' etc. - a) people don't have much time, and b) people can't necessarily afford or access the media you're talking about.

(And do not get me started on people who spoil US books, TV shows, and movies, before they're even RELEASED in other countries!

Like, spoilers don't generally bother me, but the assumption that we all *must* have seen the thing by now... 😒

Sometimes we get things MONTHS after you do, y'know? And sometimes the TV show or whatever doesn't get picked up AT ALL in our countries.)

To sum-up then:

  • There's a tonne of media out there - way more than we can consume in one lifetime

  • Watch what you wanna watch - but be aware of the reasons behind your decisions

  • It's good to challenge yourself

  • Diverse media needs to be supported and sought out

  • Quality is subjective af, but shouldn't be sacrificed for quantity

  • Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to keep up with every book, TV series, film, etc.

  • It's all about balance and context

How do you cope with the amount of media on offer?
Do you have any paid-for subscription services?
Talk to me! ❤💬

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Last updated: 25th Jan 2019


  1. This is such an important issue and one that is definitely a key topic at the moment! Have you heard of Knights Of? They're a children's publisher committed to publishing diverse children's books, and they just crowdfunded the means to open a dedicated bookstore for this. It's wonderful news, because it shows that people are willing to pay for this!

    I hope other businesses take note!


    1. Diversity is definitely an important topic - and one that's not going away any time soon! I don't *think* I've heard of Knights Of... it's possible, the name seems familiar, but I can't quite put my finger on it! There are so many awesome, and successful, diverse publishing houses and diverse books, that the argument of 'diversity doesn't sell' really needs to be put in the trash heap where it belongs!

      Thanks so much for the comment!

  2. I have Netflix, and admitted never really pay much attention to how the company markets non-diverse shows and people to me. I will definitely be paying more attention to what I’m consuming now!

    1. Media literacy ftw ;) once you're aware of how marketing and targeted marketing works, you'll start to see it everywhere, believe me!

  3. Hidden gems are the best! Although working on making them less-hidden is also awesome af! It's in Netflix's interest to promote the f**k out of certain things, at the expense of others. *nods sagely*

    And thank you! <3

  4. Great article as always! I've been watching a lot of Bollywood lately, and it's been so much fun!

    1. Thank you! (Also, thanks for calling my post an article! Lol) I've not seen any Bollywood but clips I've seen on things always look like a lot of fun! XD

  5. I see what you mean. It is impossible to consume everything and I am all for rewatching favourites (I spend my time doing that again and again). But I am all for trying to make conscious diverse choices. Book bloggers really help with that when it comes to my reading. I think it can be tricky to remember that those people selling and advertising to us are trying to make money as well!

    1. People advertising and selling are totally also trying to make money - which is how we end up with this self-perpetuating system whereby the things that are already popular are mimicked and the narrative remains the same. It's seeking out diversity that changes that! (And there are some awesome #diversebookbloggers leading the charge!)


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