Nobody thinks the media affects them. Yet the media affects everyone.
Just stop for a minute. Breathe. Because you've been in a media frenzy for the last 10 years. And you didn't even notice.
Take a think. How many hours do you think you spend staring at screens every day consuming media? How many hours every week? Every year?
Just what percentage of your life is spend consuming media? How much of your life do you spend sat still staring at screens?
Consider the fact that outside of our work and sleep we almost ALWAYS decide to spend the majority of the rest of our time consuming or engaging with media.
Yet most people will adamantly deny any possible affects the media has on them.
Why do so many people have no understanding of how the media affects them?
Well, does a fish know that it's wet?
We don't notice the effect media has on us BECAUSE it's so pervasive.
You probably see media simply as a part of everyday life. You scroll Facebook. You sit on the sofa and watch TV. You play video games.
This is life right?
Well, no actually.
In the grand scheme of things, this behaviour is really strange.
Up until around 80 years ago, these things were completely alien. Up until around 500 years ago even reading was totally unheard of to most people.
The brain evolved to deal with making social connections with your tribe, hunting for food and having sex. It's not equipped to deal with modern day media technology.
Media has strange effects on people. Media changes people. And different media has different effects.
You can't start playing video games for 25 hours a week and expect to stay the same person as you were before.
Like your nutritional diet, your media diet should be treated with the same level of care.
What Junk Media does to you
Consume too much junk food and you will pay a price. You will feel worse about yourself. You will ruin your health. You will not be able to think clearly.
The same is true for consuming junk media.
Just like your brain doesn't function properly on a diet of junk food, you won't think clearly if you're consuming massive amounts of junk media.
Netflix binges will eat into your precious free time, comments sections of Youtube videos will infuriate you, your best friend's Instagram account will make you painfully jealous.
TV news will make you perpetually scared off the outside world. Meaningless notifications will steal your attention. Advertising will make you feel inadequate.
And what are the results of consuming countless hours of junk media?
An unfulfilled life. Low self-esteem. Depression. Anxiety. Anger. Frustration. Impaired social skills. An inaccurate world view. Wasted time.
Junk media is bad for your mental health
Junk media, like junk food, has no nutritional value. Only empty, addictive calories.
And on top of that, consider the physical reality of consuming so much media:
Sat still. Staring into a screen.
Your body wasn't made for this. And that's why they sitting is the new smoking.
If you're like many people, media will lessen your quality of sleep as you stay up late into the night with your smartphone screen illuminating the darkness of the room.
Now instead, what happens when you consume healthy media?
You become more knowledgeable. You become more interesting. You become more successful. You learn new skills. You get inspired. You get motivated. You feel good. Your self-esteem goes up. You see a side of the world you could have never seen without media. You're exposed to new points of view. And you get to see amazing works of art.
This is the power of taking care of your media diet.
They say you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with and the same is true for the media influences you surround yourself with.
Don't be a Sucker
All media is made with a purpose in mind.
You need to find out what that purpose is.
Is it to get eyeballs in the advertisements in the break? Is it to profit from the micro-transactions in the mobile game? Is it to sell you a product? Is it to make you vote a certain way? Is it to sell you a particular frame in which to see the world. Is it to get your attention back to their app? Is it to have you watch as many hours content as possible? Is it to drive clicks on their news article? Is it to cause controversy? Is it to sell as many cinema tickets as possible?
We live in a capitalist world. Most media is made in an effort to make money. It's your job to figure out how they profit from the media and then decide for yourself whether you want to fall into their money trap.
Don't be the guy who watches 4 hours of Netflix even though he had work to do, because Netflix's autoplay feature kept dragging him back in.
Don't be the guy who gets angry and upset over a news article, not realising that most of the information is deliberately misleading in an attempt to provoke your emotions and drive traffic to the website.
Don't be the guy who never figures out that the MMORPG he's playing is DESIGNED to make him addicted so he keeps paying his subscription fee. (MMORPG addiction is a terrible thing)
"There are more people who profit from understanding human psychology
than there are using psychology to better the human condition"
Phillip Zimbardo, American Psychologist
Media Changes Us completely
Because our brains are neuroplastic (our brains are constantly adapting to new stimuli), everything we do rearranges the structure of our brain. And that includes media.
To put it simply, your brain gets good at doing what you do the most.
When you develop a habit of binging Netflix for 2 hours after work every day, your body and your mind will adapt itself to this task. Your physical body will also deteriorate slightly, sitting still on the sofa requires very little muscle tone after all.
As you stare at Netflix your mind will rewire itself to suit the task at hand. It will enter a state of passivity each time you watch. And it will develop a habit of doing so. When the time comes and you need your brain to be engaged and pro-active, it won't be quite as adept at doing so.
If, for instance, you sit down and read a book for an hour every day, you will become someone who can focus on one thing for long periods of time.
If, on the other hand, you choose to use that time browsing through social media instead, you will become someone who struggles to focus on any one task and finds themselves constantly distracted, no matter what the task at hand is.
Overdose on pornography and you will teach your brain to seek arousal from a voyeuristic, outsider perspective rather than being in the scene yourself, in an intimate encounter with a real partner.
Overdose on Social media and you will teach your brain to seek self-worth from others rather than from yourself.
Be exposed to too much advertising and you will teach your brain that you cannot be happy until after you've made your next purchase, instead of simply being happy right now.
Follow a over-negative Vlogger or Twitter account and that negativity will leak into your life as well.
They say you are what you eat.
You are the media you consume
Because media is a force that acts upon you. And without intervention this force will change who you are.
If you're like most people you will think this is all terribly exaggerated. Because you feel like you're in control.
And you are in control.
Of your conscious brain that is.
Unfortunately, media acts on your subconscious brain.
This means that it will change your patterns of behaviour and your state of mind without you being aware of it at all.
The subconscious brain picks up all information it is given. And that includes media.
Your conscious brain may consider your 2 hour Netflix binge as just a bit of entertainment outside your real life, but to your subconscious brain everything counts.
Your subconscious brain doesn't consider your Netflix binge as separate from who you are. It considers it as a part of you. And will adapt to the task just like it would if you were learning a new language for 2 hours each day.
Every piece of media you're exposing your brain to is having an effect. There are no exceptions.
So take care of your Media Diet. Because it might be having more impact on your life than you might expect.