The other day I landed on an article titled “A Social Media Addict Tries to Disconnect.” Something about the headline felt familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I started reading.
As the headline suggests, CNN producer Kiran Khalid attempts to disconnect from social media. Sort of. Resolving to kick her “appalling addiction,” she makes the difficult decision to spend her five-day vacation in Antigua without electronic communications. At this point, I realized I had heard this one before; another I-disconnected-from-the-Internet/social-media piece. In Kiran Khalid’s case: a lavish Caribbean beach vacation can actually be kind of enjoyable even if you’re not obsessively tweeting the whole time. Who could have guessed?
It’s time to put this story to bed. And while we’re at it, let’s go ahead and confirm that yes, we’ve heard that young people are evidently all addicted to technology. What’s apparent is that we also seem to be addicted to stories about being addicted to technology. It would probably be worth examining the underlying question here, which is why people like me continue to click through to these stories. But rather than do that, I’d prefer to sidestep that issue completely and instead appeal directly to the writers themselves.
If you are considering writing one of these types of articles, don’t. Yes it will be easy to write, and yes people will probably read it, but you’ll be attaching your name to something almost as played out as the numbered list. Instead, try out one of my five suggestions below, and transform your tired drivel into a totally original nugget of quasi-journalistic gold!
1. Opposing Viewpoint
If it’s the subject of technology addiction you’re drawn to, consider approaching it from a fresh new angle. Sure, you could add another ricochet to the echo chamber, or you could take a stand and be the brave, lone voice of resistance, the first writer to finally question the authenticity of this trend from a fundamental perspective. Maybe no teens are texting. Maybe there are no teens. Write an article about that.
2. Noun Replacement
If it’s the structured premise of these articles you’re stuck on, try replacing just one or two of the key nouns you’re working with. For example, instead of writing a story about the four days you spent away from your Twitter account, why not do a story about the four years you spent living in a Siberian snake farm, subsisting on nothing but heartworm medication and Capri Sun? Or, instead of asking if America’s teens are addicted to texting, why not ask if America’s Steves are addicted to Demerol? There’s a subject that has not been adequately explored by the mainstream media.
3. Narrator Switch
Instead of writing an article as yourself abstaining from texts for a week, try writing the story from the point of view of your phone. What story would your phone have to tell after that experience? How would that story differ from your own version of the events? And what kind of narrator is your phone? Can we trust him to tell the truth? How do we know your phone is a he? Don’t answer that. A little mystery goes a long way.
4. In Medias Res
If there’s one thing that can be said for just about every technology addiction article out there, it’s that they are totally linear. What if you started your story halfway through? The article begins as a teenager plummets to the depths of an unimaginable hell. What’s wrong with her? We don’t know. She appears to be going through some form of withdrawal — perhaps from drugs, but who can say for sure? FLASHBACK — it’s three days ago and she’s being told that she won’t be able to access Facebook for the next couple days. Bam! You’ve served up your technology story, but with the suspense and payoff of a Hollywood blockbuster.
5. New Medium
You know it will result in another needless facsimile, you’ve attempted to change your angle, your nouns, your narrator, and your starting point, and yet you still find yourself uncontrollably compelled to rehash the same old technology addiction story. So be it—apparently there’s no stopping you. But have you considered weaving this derivative tale outside the confines of the written word? Perhaps you could better demonstrate how your obnoxious social media habits have crippled your personal relationships by creating a scrapbook, a cactus garden, or a simple watercolor painting.
Though I’d like to think otherwise, it’s conceivable that this friendly entreaty will not mark the death of the technology addiction article. It may even be possible that resisting such a phenomenon is absurd, given the ineffably vast mediasphere which demands impossible amounts of content and cares little about things like pointless repetition or social media addiction fatigue (yes, you heard that phrase here first). But then again, absurd is an increasingly difficult thing to discern in the context of said mediasphere. Maybe there is no absurd. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure there’s a good watercolor painting in there, somewhere.