• The Prisoner Issue

    Me, Consuming the News

    The Prisoner Issue
    Personal essays

    A chat room of one’s own.

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    Randon Rosenbohm is an artist from New Orleans living in New York. They currently write and edit articles for Mask Magazine.

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    Personal Essays

    Me, Consuming the News


    Sara Sutterlin

    Beyond social media, I am still very new to publishing my own writing. Social media lazily satisfies my need to root my creativity in my unique experience. During crit my favorite professor said the only way to make your art better was to bring it closer to you. The strongest move an artist can make is to find their essence and amplify it. All we can do is be ourselves.

    My brain is permanently fogged by the haze of white screens and a constant exposure to information. My understanding of the world is a pastiche of impressions. In high school I told my boyfriend I was interested in a journalism career and he discouraged me, something about the industry going to waste. That was at least five years ago. The industry is changing, but it's still here, like sculpture, like anything involving media.

    I know how I consume news media: I skim my feeds and derive what’s happening from the most repeated headlines. Rarely do I click. Sometimes when I click, the story is different from my impression of the headline. It turns out the Muslim woman was set on fire in NYC, but she was not fatally burned. But what difference does it make, the information I gathered from the headline is all I need to know: islamophobia is fatally heinous.

    I don't trust any news outlet. The outlets I do trust require an inordinate effort to consume. I liked the NPR bit about lightning bugs, but I deleted the NPR app to make space on my phone for photos. When I turn on my device, I don’t open Al Jazeera to read up on foreign affairs. I am more concerned with my social life, which is more apparently immediate. If I worked for a news outlet I would write headlines for videos of piglets and kittens, but when you clicked the video it’d clearly delineate how your complicity is related to the military industrial complex. The internet hates reading, but we still love kitty cats.

    News is entertainment is news. My dad asked me if I had seen “Between the Ferns” and I corrected him (Between Two Ferns) and no, I haven't watched the new one yet, but I've seen others. Do I need to watch it, or is it enough just knowing it’s there? After all, Hillary Clinton was convinced to go on the show because it would be highly shareable content; the fact that she did it was more important than what she said on the show.

    When the Snowden story broke, I had a general sense of what was happening, that he was a national hero, and I argued with conservative family members about it, but I didn’t know the full story until I watched the dramatization, three years later. My attention span is so devastatingly shrunken that if I didn't spend money on a ticket, I would have walked away from Snowden. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is very cute, but he seems a little short. When I close my eyes to go to sleep I see viral images flashing in the dark like a television quickly changing channels.

    There’s something circular about producing, sharing, and consuming content. Relating to media makes it easier to consume. Empathy is peak relatability. When reading in the first person, I embody the writer. Before sharing an article, I pull my favorite quote and share that as well, adding a sentence or two to center my experience. That’s how I’d establish a strong personal brand: I’d thoughtfully share content based on my personal experience.

    Personal branding has always seemed rigid, but I’m realizing it’s capable of flux. A couple of years ago my friends came to associate me with avocados: that’s what they gave me for my birthday, that’s the subject of the content they shared with me. Of course I knew I was capable of so much more than avocados, but I needed to remind myself. Over time, I lost my reputation as avocado girl.

    I've only seen a few of episodes of Sex and the City, but my impression is: the women experience something and Carrie Bradshaw, the columnist, is writing about the sexy things they experienced. An episode is whatever Carrie Bradshaw writes into existence, signified by first person narration. Right now I feel like a backwards Carrie Bradshaw. I’m more prone to performances I wouldn’t otherwise engage with if I wasn’t going to be writing about it.

    When given the choice to read a first hand account of homelessness or an objective reportage of how homelessness is affected by gentrification, I would probably read both. One has more affect, but both are valid sources of information. I speculate the prominence of the personal essay is directly related to how writers are paid. I’m not sure what came first: their prominence or their popularity.

    I want to empathize. I am comforted by voices and first-hand accounts, whether they resonate with my experience or not. When our stories are published on a greater platform, our stories become visible. I share them, as if it were my own content, to amplify our essence.

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