Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pamphlets: The Red Meat Of Comics

You may have seen some news recently about red meat having a significantly higher risk of dying. While the specifics of the study are new, there have been a variety of negative health associations with red meat that have been made over the years. I actually cut red meat out of my diet entirely about a month ago before the latest round of reports. But that decision came after a two or three years of largely choosing chicken and fish over red meats anyway. My decision to make an abrupt cut with red meat was made, in part, because I realized that I really wasn't eating that much any more anyway. Maybe one hamburger every other month, an occasional burrito from Chipotle, and pepperoni on my pizza. So when I put a definitive break on red meat, it was really just a small adjustment, not a large one.

Right now, I'm working on cutting back on caffeine. I've never been a big fan of coffee, but I could easily down 5-6 Mountain Dews every day. I tried quitting cold turkey once about 6-8 years ago, but I had several days of massive migraines and really had difficulty thinking clearly. My plan this time is to slowly reduce my caffeine intake over time, and then cutting out corn syrup laden beverages altogether after that. That initial ripping-off-the-Band-Aid approach I tried didn't work because it wasn't just about the initial pain of withdrawal, but that I was trying to force a dramatic behavioral change on myself. I didn't always drink several Dews a day -- that was something I learned over time in college. A soda with lunch or dinner became a couple. Which became another soda when I was trying to stay up late to finish a project. Which became yet another soda when I was trying to wake myself back up after spending all night working on a project and only got a couple hours sleep and now needed to get to class. Which eventually became a soda every time I was thirsty.

Much of what we do is learned behavior. Breathing, keeping our hearts beating, blinking... those are automatic behaviors that we're born doing naturally. But talking, walking, chewing, typing... just about anything that involves movement, really... that is all learned. And many of those things we learn so well that we do them almost without thinking. The ability to lean forward slightly from a standing position, swing your leg out to catch yourself from falling over, and doing it over and over and over again so that you can move forward... adjusting your balance with a constantly shifting center of gravity... navigating around obstacles without missing a beat... The "simple" process of walking involves a mind-bogglingly complex set of spur-of-the-moment computations that you don't even realize you're making. You barely need to think, "I want to walk over there" and your body is already in motion as you weave your way through a crowd while balancing four drinks.

That's one reason why it's often difficult for people to learn how to walk again after a debilitating accident: they had learned how to walk so long ago, and it had become so ingrained in themselves, that they haven't had to consciously think about how to walk for decades.

Buying comics is a learned behavior, too. You didn't always buy comics. Maybe you only bought one every now and again. Later that became one a month. That maybe spread out to two or three. Then six. Before long, you're getting 20-30 books every week! Trying to go from that to digital comics or webcomics or none at all is a huge behavioral change. Like cutting out red meat out of a typically American diet.

But like cutting out red meat, it can be done reasonably painlessly if you ramp down your behavior. Trying to cut comics cold turkey is not the way to go because it's more about the act of going to the shop on a regular basis than the actual purchases themselves. (At least as far as the actual behavior is concerned.) I've had to drop my pamphlet comic purchases entirely on a few occasions (all financially related) and I don't mind telling you that it was dreadfully painful each time.

"But why would you want to drop comics in the first place?"

I'm not suggesting that you do. But there are certainly times when it has to be done. As I noted, I've had to do it for financial reasons in the past; I'm sure others have as well. But perhaps you're no longer getting enough entertainment out of superhero comics and your local shop does a miserable job of bringing in other types of books. (J. Caleb Mozzocco expressed frustration at exactly this earlier this week!) Maybe you've seen too much of the sausage factory, and need to step away for a while. Maybe it's getting too costly and you want to switch over to webcomics because they're decidedly cheaper.

Whatever the reason, I'm just saying that you're better off making a gradual transition than an abrupt one. It really isn't like ripping off a Band Aid because you're really trying to change something that you've spent years, if not decades, learning. You're not trying to just unlearn a behavior, you're trying to learn a new replacement behavior as well. And that's not something that comes quickly or easily.

Besides, those webcomics and digital comics you're switching to will still be there! ;)

1 comment:

Ethan said...

As a vegan, I found this analogy to be quite entertaining.