Courtesy of Disney

March 24, 2021

YANG | We’re Collectively Tuning Out

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Following up on my attempt to crowdsource article ideas from Twitter in my last column , I continued to struggle this week with pinning down a topic. Seeking all sorts of inspirations from different people while I was running out of time, I turned to my fellow columnist Cecilia Lu ’22 to talk (or, more like complain) about this predicament. 

I’m so glad to find out that Cecilia and I are on the same page about this. At the very least, it has made me feel less horrible about myself to know I’m not the only one in this situation. To each other, we both confessed how we feel like we don’t really consume enough media content to elicit ideas for our articles, and I’m certain that at the very least,I’m partially to blame. I mean, who else should I condemn for my own inability to do my job as a columnist?  

But setting aside my personal indolence, I believe there’s something else that pulled the strings; a year into the pandemic and the patterns and habits of our media consumption have changed.

I think we’re all collectively tuning out, and I think we’re not the ones to blame.

This year, the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards saw the worst ratings since 2006. Compared to 2020’s show, the number of viewers went down by 53%. This sharp decline is far from insignificant — it reflects a new era of media landscape that encapsulates our nonchalance toward tuning in.

This doesn’t mean we don’t consume any content. We still do, and many of us embrace this opportunity to revisit our favorite TV shows, movies and music.

Yet, collectively, we are far less excited about new releases these days. To begin with, compared to a non-pandemic year (I don’t even dare to say “normal” anymore), there have been far fewer new releases in the past year. This is especially the case with the film industry, where we constantly see updates to the never-ending list of movies whose release dates got pushed back –– again and again. For instance, it was just announced that Black Widow, a film originally slated to be released in May 2020, was pushed back to July 2021 — after it was pushed back to November 2020, and then to May 2021. This would be more than a whole whopping year past the movie’s first scheduled premiere date.

Furthermore, despite all the memes we made about possible ways to splurge our “stimmies,” we also couldn’t be bothered to spend extra bucks on new releases that aren’t readily available on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max or Amazon Prime Video. Sure, we’ve heard great things about Minari all over the news, but how many of us have spent $19.99 to actually rent out the A24 film? Very few of us have. We only care about these new releases as far as the media is concerned. 

It seems that we’re fine with the limited catalogues we’re paying for, and I think there’s nothing wrong with it. Afterall, how excited can we be for new entertainment when we feel that our lives have remained stagnant this past year?

For Cornellians, this month marks one year after the shutdown of many things we were familiar with or took for granted. And where are we now? We’re at alert level yellow, and we’re still a month away from the next set of wellness days. Even for someone who tends to be an avid media consumer, I couldn’t justify being that enthusiastic about the mundane entertainment in our everyday lives.

The fact that we’re collectively tuning out makes perfect sense to me. When the temporality of our lives is faced with much turbulence, why would we care so much about gripping onto the (“normal”) temporality of our media consumption?

It’s not only understandable that we’re tuning out, it’s perfectly okay. 

Stephen Yang is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]Rewiring Technoculture runs alternate Thursdays this semester.