In praise of slow media

Spotify has all the music you’ll ever need.  Apple gives you on-demand, unlimited access to millions of tracks. Netflix provides unlimited movies, TV shows, and more. You can get endless entertainment, live sports, and the shows and movies you love on Hulu. Anywhere. Anytime. We are drunk on endless, non-stop, fast-speed entertainment.

I once heard a joke: Before streaming services, it took people ten years to watch Friends I laughed. It also made me feel kind of sad. I watched Friends in less than a year— more like six months— often watching multiple episodes a day. Binge watching is the norm now. But is entertainment more enjoyable when it requires prolonged anticipation and patience before one can consume it? When it is slow?

Slow Media is not about fast consumption but about choosing the ingredients mindfully and preparing them in a concentrated manner. Slow Media can only be consumed with pleasure in focused alertness.

Although the good old days of slow media are long gone, I have been self-imposing slow media in my life throughout the years. I put limitations on what media is available to me through alternative options.

We have (alternative) options.

A few years back, I discovered that my public library has streaming platforms to borrow movies, music, audio books and everything else in-between from. The two I have used are Kanopy and Hoopla, and have used them throughout the years, in addition to the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, and Netflix.

Kanopy is an on-demand streaming video platform available through most public libraries. Hoopla is a digital media service offered by public libraries that allows you to borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows. Both are available for free. Both are ad-free. And you can access Kanopy and Hoopla across multiple devices, including computers, tablets, smartphones, and TVs. What is there not to like?

But what I enjoy the most about these platforms is that they limit your media consumption.

Each month, I have ten plays available to stream through Kanopy, including movies, short-films, TV show episodes, and so forth. That’s it. This means a few things. One, it forces me to be picky about what I watch. Two, once I pick something to watch, I tend to stick with what I have picked, and it usually ends up not being too bad anyway. Or, really, really good. Even if we were to watch all ten plays available to us each month, that’s 15 to 20 hours a month dedicated to watching TV; a lot. Still, it is a much better alternative to popular streaming services with unlimited access to millions of movies and shows non-stop.

I also find Kanopy by design? exposes me to foreign movies, indie films, and old cinema that I wouldn’t come across on the popular streaming sites. Is it because the algorithm for Netflix is more aggressive than the one for Kanopy and the likes? You get what is available. It feels better, slower.

In a pervious post, Spotify and the paradox of choice, I wrote in detail about my decision to use Hoopla exclusively for music consumption.

With only 8 titles available for streaming each month, and only 7-day borrowing period, I save my allocated titles for albums and music playlists available on Hoopla. Each week I borrow two albums: one new, one favourite. I try to listen to each album all the way through once, and then I put them on shuffle for the rest of the week. I get to enjoy music that I love while I discover new music: Lust for Life, An Evening With Silk Sonic, and Good for You are recent discoveries.

More importantly, I skip less now.

Having two albums means, I can’t just endlessly skip until I find my favourite song. It forces me to savour what is available, and what is available on Hoopla. I can easily sign up for Spotify but I’m really enjoying my slow music consumption. Listening to one song after another until the end of the album is an experience to cherish.

I’m still slowly building my Apple library. Owning albums I truly enjoy feels better than renting millions of songs. It also forces me to be picky about what I pay for. I try to buy an album a month; it’s about the same price as a Spotify membership. I play the albums I have bought on repeat, and the music hits different. Is it because I own it and that somehow feels better subconsciously? I don’t know.

Until next time,

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  1. Karina Ball Avatar
    Karina Ball

    I love the slow down!

    Liked by 1 person

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