I have a favorite saying that you are what you consume. Back in the day, we watched a lot of TV. We were limited to only a few channels, so media outlets had a field day with pricing advertising. Still, just about every night, families across America sat in front of glowing glass tubes built into big wooden boxes and watched Mike and Carol raise kids, or Carrie, Mary and Laura frolic in meadows. Lucky families even had TVs with a turntable and an AM/FM radio inside. And yes, our news was delivered to our porch by kids on bikes who rose before the sun to snap rubber bands around rolls of paper.

That was our consumption. And we were good at it.

Today? Well, I don’t have to tell you what consumption looks like today. Access to information and entertainment is as unlimited as it’s ever been, and even beyond what we could have imagined it would be. Just look in your Twitter stream and you’ll see the majority of people tweeting links. Links to places online where you can learn about cool stuff, watch cool things, read inspiring stories, get social media tips, view videos, etc. And we’re not just limited to being near a TV or radio for our consumption, either. Now we can stream full movies out of thin air onto our telephones. But as brilliant as Angry Birds is, I can’t help but think about the precious time I’m spending when I’m engaged with it. Time I don’t get back. And for what? Consumption. At its essence, that’s all it is. That’s all any of it is. We are either consuming and wasting, or creating and building.

I write a lot. No, it’s not as much as the professional bloggers, but I do some damage. And I don’t get paid for it. I write because I must. Blogging has been a revelation for me in that way. Whereas before, I would write for myself (I have plastic buckets in the attic filled with hand-written or typed stories and journals going back decades), now I share my writing with a small but engaged audience. It’s a perfect way for me to do what has always come naturally. And so blogging is a way for me to create content, not just consume it. It offers a sense of balance. Some people make music. Some paint. Others create games. I write. No, it’s not always profound or helpful, but it’s me sitting down with my index fingers on the F and J, focussed on stringing words together to form ideas. Creating.

As it turns out, I’ve noticed that I create about 15% vs. what I consume. The kind of things I typically consume on a daily basis include TV (very minimally), music, movies and online content in the form of news and blogs. But I’m at least creating. And yet, I know I can do better. Especially in how I enlighten my children to this conundrum.

I’ve noticed that my kids can get way lost on any number of the datamining, er, I mean children’s gaming sites that are out there. And why not? They’re pretty brilliant. Who doesn’t like matching up four, like-colored gems on a grid for some coinage? And now, their friends are sharing gaming sites where they meet and play together. Plus, there’s always Netflix and the deadly :30 minute shows like Hanna Montana and Sunny with a Chance. Not having cable in the house for over a year now has definitely helped keep the kids away from broadcast media, but broadcast is such a small part of it anymore. Back in the day we had four TV channels, AM/FM radio and the local newspaper. We used our imaginations the rest of the time. And we created things that no one ever knew about. Some of them even sit in plastic buckets in the attic. But with the amazing tools at their disposal, I hope to encourage my daughters to create content, not just consume it.

In the end, you are what you consume. And if you’re not doing your share of creating, you’re like a vegetable soaking up the sun in preparation of one day being harvested. By advertisers.


Jim Mitchem

A Little Goodbye

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.