SOUL FOOD &ADDICTION
IN THE MEDIA

1. Finding soul food

When I told my sister that one of my greatest pleasures was to watch television, she was horrified. Yes, I find some of the PBS programs very informative and even inspiring. The web, even more than TV, has become our mental environment. One can find soul food in excellent programs on nature, science, even cooking, plus a few Sunday celebrations where everybody sings, in churches decorated with art, and inspiring homilies. Yes, I find soul food in the media.

Facebook has reached 2 billion users. Half the Facebook users log in every day. In the U.S. one out of every five internet pages is viewed at Facebook. Data for 2017 indicate that Facebook is accessed 15 days per month and 8 times a day by its users, while Twitter is accessed 7.5 days a month, and 5 times a day. WhatsApp is used by more than a billion customers in 18 countries; it has become the most popular messenger. The cell phone generation finds most of its soul food in the social media.

2. Avoiding addiction, poisoning, and kitsch

There is a kind of opioid epidemic going on in the media today. It will not kill you, it will only sedate you. It is like the opiate of the masses Marx wrote about.

Regularly watching the news on TV is anxiety producing. When reading the same news in a newspaper, one can skim the article or skip it altogether. On the radio, twitter, and the hourly news reports, we always get "the latest," as if the previous newscast were obsolete. And the current newscast will also be obsolete in an hour or two. Getting the latest news is like running after time: you will never be able to catch it or stop it. All you get is latent anxiety.

Cell phones can easily be addictive when people take them along wherever they go. Very important people do not answer the phone; they have their secretary do that, and then they answer later at leisure. Most of us are not important enough to have a private secretary, so we receive throughout the day messages that say "My message is important to you. Would you want to miss me, would you? Please answer NOW! NOW!" And we oblige. Cell phones are addictive because they make us feel powerful.

The time from Halloween to Christmas is the season of kitsch. Walt Disney was probably the most influential commercial artist: Mikey mouse and Santa Claus bring his aesthetic into stores and homes. Artists like Matisse, Chagall, Cocteau, Leger, Rouault, Le Corbusier etc. have decorated churches, but where can you find O'Keeffe or Pollock except in museums? Kitsch is like fast food: it pleases but does not satiate.

DISCUSSION: Where do you find soul food on television, CDs, your cell phone, and the internet? Do students use their phones in class like a secret addiction? What would Advent or Lent feel like without taking one's cell phone along? Cell phones are our favorite pets, Yes? They keep us on a short leash.