Monthly Archives: April 2009

Consumption (sumption) what’s your function?

To the two people who have requested in the past week that I write something, and you know who you are, this one’s for you. I must say, I do always feel better after some good ol‘ fashion word mincing. I feel like I’ve written something like this before, but don’t care to cross reference to see since the catharsis of writing it (again?) feels so good. Out w/ it, then.

It’s the week after upfronts. I’m shocked to hear that television viewing is (gasp!) on the rise. During a down economy when people desire escapism. While DVR penetration rises and C3 ratings are now standardized. With TV programming proliferating across many different screens to the ultimate benefit of the larger screens. Insert other factors for television viewing increasing here _________________.

But the word I heard used many times wasn’t “viewing”, it was “consuming”. And thus a pet peeve of mine burst from the pod: Do people “consume” or “use” media? Let’s review definitions from our friends at dictionary.com:

con-sume [kuhn-soom] verb, –sumed, –sum ing
–verb (used with object)
1. to destroy or expend by use; use up.
2. to eat or drink up; devour.
3. to destroy, as by decomposition or burning.
4. to spend (money, time, etc.) wastefully.
5. to absorb; engross.
–verb (used without object)
6. to undergo destruction; waste away.
7. to use or use up consumer goods.

Hmm, I’m liking #5 a bit, at least “engross”, but all the others sound a bit dark and foreboding. A bit too Apocalyptic, a bit to Convenient Truth-ish. It seems the end game is ending the game, what’s done is done, and the benefit derived is the ending or the done-ness. That’s just no good when your talking about media these days.

use [yooz or, for past tense form of 9, yoost] verb, used, using

–verb (used with object)
1. to employ for some purpose; put into service; make use of.
2. to avail oneself of; apply to one’s own purposes.
3. to expend or consume in use.
4. to treat or behave toward.
5. to take unfair advantage of; exploit.
6. to drink, smoke, or ingest habitually.
7. to habituate or accustom.
8. Archaic. to practice habitually or customarily; make a practice of.
–verb (used without object)
9. to be accustomed, wont, or customarily found (used with an infinitive expressed or understood, and, except in archaic use, now only in the past): He used to go every day.
10. Archaic. to resort, stay, or dwell customarily.

OK, so “consume” shows up in #3, but the noun “use” does as well, which is defined as “the act of employing, using or putting into service”. So something is expended towards an end that isn’t just the expension (that’s not a word but stick w/ me here) of the thing.

Exploitation, substance abuse and gluttony are referenced in Nos. 5 and 6. But according to Dr. Phil, people do these things to fill some sort of void in their life, so the doing of such things isn’t just to do the things, and, frankly, they just need to “Git o-vur eeyet.”

The other inherent beauty in the verb “use” related to media are the references to habit and custom. Something is done habitually and customarily to further one’s purpose. If you could articulate a universal marketing/advertising/media objective, would that not be the one?

Frankly, when it comes to TV, my bias is towards the mindlessness implied with the word “consume”. But, alas, I cannot allow it. Though the networks very noticeably backed off their multi-media messages from the past couple of years this year, it is quite obvious that the proliferation of content written by fans about programming (OMG, Adam was soooo screwed by AT&T telling those Arkansas ppl how to send power texts…) means people actually do, indeed, use TV.

It’s just kinda ironic that the usefulness comes to life elsewhere.

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Filed under media usage, riffs, TV