Media Management: Addiction vs. Agency Part One

media managementJan. 11, 2010 I’m officially back from my one week blog hiatus, victorious in keeping my New Year resolution to ‘unplug’ more, manage my media rather than having it manage me, and slip away sans notification to prove that the world won’t fall apart and your readers won’t jump ship just because you go awol.

Yep, it’s my personal media management smackdown which surfaces on occasion. (visual via MediaScape, NZ an informative site on youth media use too!)

So, why did I do this? Coupla reasons. No secret I’m a fairly intense person and ‘take on too much’ in shades of author Liz Funk’s SuperGirls mode.

Thankfully I have Alvin Toffler warning bells that go off in my brain when I’m on the verge of information overload and can literally feel the discordance and overwhelm impacting my worldview, so I  pullback, purge my data streams and go silent…Youth? Not so much.

faucetThere’s less inclination for youth to shut off the media just for grins…

It’s simply part of their way of life; and even disquieting for some to turn down the flow to a trickle or close off the valve altogether (all the more reason to introduce this altered state!)

Habits ingrain early so I ditch them when I see them just to create chaos in my routine and purposely force myself out of a comfort zone regularly. But kids? Developmentally, they tend to like routine and shun change, so there’s security in knowing they have peers at their side 24/7…(not always welcomed by parents who can feel over-run by ‘pack mentality’ either in person or via tether to devices)

Since the testing teen years are a natural progression for bucking the tide, I thought I’d toss in a healthy New Year media literacy exercise to ‘dare to compare’ who’s in charge…putting the rebel yell smack dab in the hands of teens to prove THEY ARE.

The game challenge?  I’d unplug from the blog if my teen unplugged from texting…Caveat? No advance sign offs, warnings, last words and ‘must dos’ —just cold turkey, whammo, to prove the sun will continue to rise.

internet addiction

The more I hear buzz about “netaddiction” the more I gear up to shut down periodically, ‘just because.’

If anything, this is a life skill I’d like to pass along to my teen, as I’m a die-hard existentialist that bristles at all of the easy outs and self-fulfilling prophecies sans personal accountability, which holds for the whole  classification of  ‘electronic addictions’ e.g: “I can’t help myself, I’m addicted”= I have no agency

“Everyone else has the same problem”=Get used to my face in the screen ’cause that’s just how it is now…meh. And bah, to boot. This is lacking any modicum of balance, moderation and common sense, giving up ‘agency’ to ‘addiction’ in wimpy pass the buck mode.

No need to echo MY media management style of upsetting the apple cart ‘just because’ to prove you can, it’s a ‘build your own’ model for sure…

But instilling the notion of maintaining free agency is paramount to kids’ decision-making of all kinds, far beyond bucking the “net addiction” moniker of media pundits flinging the latest pathology du jour…

agencyA healthy sense of personal agency with a dash of “you don’t own me” defiance has guided my life choices for many a decade, whether it goes for guys, gals, bosses, sponsors, vices, advertisers, you name it…and frankly, it’s served me well.

With media stats of teen dating violence today, it seems many young girls out there could use a dose of that ‘tude…

So who knows, maybe this is my “mama mantra” surfacing subconsciously under the radar to show-n-tell what free agency is all about?

No question it’s a paramount necessity to maintain control over; especially in teen years when pushback against peer influences, pop culture mindshare and any other controlled states of being is difficult at best.

Whether it’s my personality quirk or prescient parenting conviction, I firmly believe a strong allegiance with the “A” word…agency, safeguards against submitting to the OTHER “A” word addiction in all its many diverse forms.

dsm-stackInternet addiction is certainly getting a ton of air time, along with other electronics: videogames, phones,  Twitter, texting, and so on…

…But I’m fuzzy on the nuances of what constitutes the term, especially when psychiatrists are considering adding it to ‘the bible’ of mental illnesses, the diagnostic big book, aka Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V)

There’s plenty of controversy about this proposed medical inclusion, from lack of transparency, oversight, and big pharm companies nosing into this new DSM medical iteration due out in 2012, as indicated in this LA Times article here… to confusion and angst via plain ol’  parents like me, who feel this might just make media waters even muddier. When docs start attaching maladies to media using diagnostic benchmarks, it stirs up even more stress as we ratchet up our own familial self-assessment.

Color me cynical, but this seems poised for profiteering…

Just think, a whole NEW form of “therapy and recovery” business along with all the other ‘isms’ and ‘holics’  and real or perceived anxieties in today’s 21st century living. (ahem; there you go, I just saved you $45,000 at the first ever internet addiction facility in the U.S. called reStart, unplug from your screens and call it a day)

computer addictionThe  notion that psychiatrists are starting to assign mental illness monikers  to medicalize  ‘internet addiction’ is nothing new, but it IS a bit problematic, because it’s ripe to be framed as a ‘catch all’ self-diagnosis  that could exacerbate a “helpless” modus operandi,  removing even more personal accountability and parental responsibility.

Walk away from the screen, baby. And if you can’t, don’t, won’t or don’t wanna, you’re addicted? Clearly it’s not that simple.

To maintain free agency and avoid ‘addiction’ there’s power in reining in the massive media encroachment to set solid boundaries for yourself.

urban backpackIt’s one of the reasons we annually go off the grid to my folks’ solar cabin in the Rockies every year with no media contact whatsoever and only the picturesque view of the Rockies and the hummingbird wings dive-bombing the deck feeder to amuse and delight. (see this post about media savvy kids & nature deficit disorder)

Sure, I’m disturbed that media is usurping the quieting of the mind (where you can hear yourself think, listen to your own points of view and develop an independent identity outside the pop culture norms/image projections foisted upon us with deafening amplification) but I’m MORE concerned that quiet in and of itself is unsettling for some kids, even bordering on foreign…

…So if I’ve got a double-dog-dare to shush, experience the silence and embrace whatever life lessons evolve out of it, I’m IN. Now if I could only put the rest of life on ‘pause’ in the same manner. Meanwhile:

How do YOU manage media so it doesn’t manage you?

What do YOU do to walk away from the screen and maintain healthy balance and control in managing your media?

Do you feel addicted? Or do you feel you have full agency? Have you heard of sites like Center for Internet Addiction and Internet Addiction.Ca?

In part two we’ll look at cultural context, information overload, and the burning question: Is internet addiction a psychiatric disorder? Why or why not, who says so? And what if anything have they got to gain? What role does free agency play? How vulnerable are kids? Or are kids managing their media better than adults?

We ALL need to find our media footing to start deconstructing how much is too much, what addiction means and add CONTEXT to the conversation.

Meanwhile, note to media habits:

You don’t own me, suckers.

I’ll continue to tune out from media enough to tune into my own thoughts and values. It’s become a ritual for me to mental floss daily.

China’s Internet Addiction Bootcamp?! CBS News:

Watch CBS News Videos Online
Visual Credits: Agency graphic of YCN/Young Creative Network by Oscar & Evan via Creative Review Book stack DSM photo via ScienceBlogs and graphic dialog box via



  1. Very good post, enjoyed it very much. We’ll see what happens to the medicalization of “internet addiction”;)
    Kind regards Dr Shock
    .-= Dr Shock MD´s last blog ..Grand Rounds Volume 6, Number 16 =-.

  2. Had to lob this link about @KatieCouric’s cbs special on teen dating violence, which is unrelated to this post, (except for the importance of FREE AGENCY, etc.) but IMPORTANT for all youth to hear and heed…Thx Rosalind Wiseman for the h/t:;featuredPost-PE

  3. Excellent plan! If we want our kids to learn healthy habits, we have to model them as well. I’m trying to go for serial balance, ’cause I know I can’t handle being balanced all the time, but I can create balance over time. Kind of like nutrition, not every meal is super nutritious, but over the day or week we cover our bases.
    .-= Sandra Foyt´s last blog ..Get Published: 7 Reasons to Diversify Your Writing =-.

  4. It’s all about self control and management, too much of anything was never good to begin with. I guess it becomes a question of self discipline at some point. Nevertheless we all have our natural duties to pass on things that are good and balanced to younger generations. I’m a video game blogger and I would agree that at some point you wouldn’t even notice or know when or how is something too much especially when you’re so into something ( e.g. a video game)At the very least I wanna be able to put up something on my blog to let gamers like myself know when is too much.

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