I am in the habit of consuming a prodigious amount of content.

Before expanding on this idea, let’s begin with a definition or two. By “consume content,” I mean “to actively engage a sensory input with one’s intellect.” Put simply, this is the distinction between hearing and listening. Content is sensory information, but organized in such a manner that it is itself a unit (in a logical sense), generally with a discrete and recognizable “source.”  A source can be a TV screen, a conversation, or anything else which can be tied to the production of content. Content can be engaged on several levels, from a general overview to a precise analysis. Someone can hear a song (not consuming content), can listen to the song (consuming content), or can analyze the melodies, harmonies, chord progression, and/or individual instruments (consuming content on a deeper level).

Everyone is capable of consuming content from multiple sources simultaneously, but the wider the net is cast, the shallower one’s consumption ability becomes. Therefore, at a certain point, one is no longer effective at consuming any content, leading to the neglect of one or more sources. Aside from this hard limit, there is also a comfort limit.  It is assumed that most people are comfortable engaging one or two sources at a given time. As a general rule, it is considered polite to engage 1 or 2 sources when people are involved. This is by practicality, because, as stated, the more sources engaged, the less depth available to any given source. No one appreciates a shallow engagement. Such encounters lead to one being considered “aloof” or “disconnected.”

By personal estimation, I have found myself capable of meaningful engagement with as many as 4 or 5 sources, but tend to find my comfort level is engaging 2-3 sources. This may appear to be signs of a data addiction, but that would come from a misinterpretation of the phrases “consuming content” and “engaging sources.” The phrases are roughly synonymous, with consuming content being the general term, while engaging a source refers to a specific action, rather than the general activity. While driving, engaging a single source would be paying attention to the road. Engaging two sources would be watching the road and listening to the song on the radio, or holding a conversation with a passenger. Engaging three sources would be watching the road, talking to the passenger, and listening to the radio playing at a low enough level that it doesn’t compete with or overpower the conversation. I am confining this discussion to mental engagement; the physical engagement of interacting with devices provides an unnecessary level of complexity for this discussion.

Like memory, content consumption can be divided into short-term and long-term, as consumption is directed directly toward short-term memory and long-term memory. Depending on the nature of the car conversation, consumption may be short-term(chatting about the weather) or long-term(talking about  your mutual future). Listening to a song on the radio can similarly be short-term(enjoying the song) or long-term(analysing the song). Watching the road can be short-term(watching for traffic, signals) or long-term(memorising a new route). As can be inferred from the examples, long-term consumption tends to require a deeper level of engagement.

Much of my life is directed toward consuming content. I am by nature analytical, so I often find myself consuming even trivial content, as my mind is extremely active. Without trying, I find myself deconstructing every book, movie, game, song, or other form of content as I experience them. To go back to my essays on art, consumption of content is actively applying and criticising interpretations, often at a rapid pace as new information presents itself. When I engage a source, then, it tends toward the deeper levels. As a benefit, I tend to have a modest understanding of my experiences, but I tend to be accused of overthinking things.

On top of the method of consumption, there is the sheer scale of my consumption. I place consumption of content in its proper role, but I have watched hundreds of movies and TV shows, and have a massive list of movies and shows to watch. I have played hundreds of video games, with hundreds more readily accessible at my fingertips. I have likely read over a thousand books, and have shelves full of books I haven’t read, as well as a list of books I do not own but intend to read. One of my primary roles at my full-time job is to consume content, interpret it, and reproduce it in a more digestible form for the sake oft hose that report to me,a s well as for those to whom I report. Additionally, I likely read several thousands of words each day, as I keep myself informed about the news and other points of interest.

With all this consumption, there remains the question: to what end? Why do I consider it worth my time to consume content at such a sustained level? It is understood that engaging film will bolster your cinematic vocabulary. What is often missed is that the cinematic vocabulary is meant to be applicable to life in an analogical sense – we watch movies in part for entertainment, but also because we wish to see the reflection of truth in our own world. Explosions may be fun, but we return to the value of art. I consume this content, rapidly applying interpretations to the content, so that I might find an interpretation that helps in my edification. Each point of data helps to develop a catalog of reference points and interrelations, both for my own personal use, but also for the sake of others – by sharing what I have learned and the connections and interpretations I have drawn, I can direct them to build off my success, to reach even greater heights. Similarly, I turn to those that have come before me in consuming content, so I may in turn benefit from their curation. We have a massive network of information at our fingertips, but, more importantly, we also have useful guideposts set along the way. A herculean task is impossible for one man. The wisdom of the crowds can come to resemble a swarm at times. But, with the help of good guides, an ordinary man can see far by standing on the shoulders of giants.