I was recently hospitalized for the best part of 10 days (fortunately I live in a country that has public health care). I have since been discharged and I am learning to walk again. But something that has struck me about this whole experience is how lost and isolated I would have been without various forms of media during this period.
To start with, hospitals are incredibly boring; especially when you are more or less completely immobilized. Then you add your daily dosage of needles into that coupled with the pain of your condition (I will note, I am not particularly bad with needles under ordinary circumstances). Hospitals are not the sort of place you want to spend a lot of time. I did get a pile of books delivered to me, but concentrating was difficult due to the combination of sleeplessness, pain, and needles; so many needles. So I bought a lot of data and turned to my phone for entertainment and communication.
This was the first thing media has done for me in getting through this time. At the most basic level it gave me a connection to my friends and family. It was through Facebook that I announced that I had been hospitalized and received surgery; I also did most of my communicating through Facebook messenger during this period. This served as an invitation for people who wanted to visit me; some did, some did not, but they knew where I was. In this instance social media served as a hub for communication.
At this point my Galaxy S5 turned into my personal entertainment system. Through a combination of Netflix and Youtube I was able to distract myself to a lesser or greater extent to the severity of my condition. I started watching movies and entire series on Netflix. It should be noted that this is unusual behavior for me as I actually very rarely watch shows and movies unless I am with company. However, in the context in which I found myself, this change in behavior was a welcome change. I generally spend more time on Youtube than Netflix on an average day; this relationship was reversed in the hospital. Regardless of the nature of how I used these platforms at this time, they provided me with a means to distract myself that I dearly needed.
This is basically how my media consumption functioned while I was in hospital. However, when my hospital stay ended, my reliance on media continued. Although I was now relatively mobile – I had crutches and could get myself from my bed to the toilet basically – this movement caused me a lot of pain. Therefore, for the most part, I was stationary. What I did have however was my aforementioned phone, a TV, and a Xbox. These three things became the nexus of my life over the course of the past month.
As like when I was in hospital, I relied on primarily Facebook as a means of communication. Although I was now out of hospital, I was (and still am at this time of writing) more or less stuck at home in recovery mode. So here, just like in the hospital proper, I relied on social media in order to communicate with friends and family.
My TV and Xbox became my primary sources of entertainment. To provide context, I am a person who strives to be fit. Before I was hospitalized I was exercising daily with at least three visits to the gym a week; this is something I do miss in my current condition. However, I do believe game consoles are the greatest invention in home entertainment; an opinion I share with Italian Fifa World Cup winner, Andrea Pirlo. The point of this little tangent is to highlight that staying inside and consuming media and playing games for hours is not something I would ordinarily do. Anyway, I became to rely on my Xbox for entertainment purposes and used it as a crutch in order to help me get through the initial stages of recovery; I have since started reading again now that my pain is more or less gone and I no longer require the assistance of mind altering pain medicine to get through the day.
These revelations my not be spectacular in and of themselves; I am sure lots of people have used media in a similar way in order to get through hard times. What this demonstrates to me is how important media is to us as individuals in the networked society of the 21st century. The use of media in this instance became a matter of survival; not just about the recovery from my physical injuries, but ensuring that I was at least relatively healthy mentally. Without the various forms of media that I had access to during this period, I could have very easily become depressed and overwhelmed by my situation. I was in huge amounts of pain in the hospital and media provided me with a distraction from that pain. Then at home, I was in relative amounts of pain coupled with a feeling of helplessness from not being able to be proactive in my life. Here again, media gave me a means through which to feel as though I was still part of the world and could actively participate within it; either through socializing via social media or participating as a consumer of cultural content. Ultimately, various media forms and platforms provided me with some form of empowerment during a period in my life in which I felt totally disempowered.
There will be some who say that we spend too much time on media in contemporary society and they would point to this emotional reliance on media as an example of that. To this I say, media is ultimately a tool, and in this instance it was tool I used as a crutch to help with my recovery; if you see something wrong with this, I think it reflects more your personal issues than mine.