Being aware of the content I consume

When we speak of consumption it’s normally in reference to the foods we eat, and the liquids we drink, but what I’ve been focusing on lately is the consumption that comes in the form of entertainment/media.

“Social media not only snatches your time, but it also teaches you attention deficiency.” – Neeraj Agnihotri

We all know and have for a long time, the powers of social media and entertainment such as films, tv shows, and the news, but I think sometimes we underestimate the impact it can have on us. It is influencing not only the items we purchase, the foods we eat, and where we holiday, but also the characteristics we find desirable in potential partners, the current events issues we focus on, and most importantly, how we feel. The opportunity for influence is everywhere, from targeted advertising so subtle that laws had to be passed to ensure ads on social media were labeled as such, to movies depicting idealised relationships.

I have chosen to be extremely aware of the content I choose to consume, whether it be opting for documentaries over violent movies, what ads I allow on my Facebook feed, and especially, what accounts I follow on Instagram. Sure, some meme accounts belittling the mundanity of life might seem funny, but how is that impacting your subconscious. As the focus on mental health awareness increases, I’ve noticed an increase in accounts creating content mocking personal growth. This includes content like faux conversations with therapists discussing topics like creating healthy boundaries or creating coping mechanisms with punchlines of the clients ignoring their advice and taking unhealthy actions. I know many would argue that these are just a way to lighten your day and are insignificant, but I believe they have a compounding effect and are mitigating our opportunity for growth through the perpetuation of unhealthy ideas.

“You are what you share.” – Charles Leadbeater

As if that wasn’t enough, there are all the beautiful people scattered throughout your newsfeed who we constantly measure our own attractiveness against. Many of us are not aware of the extent of how manipulated these images or videos often are, not to mention surgery, implants, and steroid usage (and that includes both sexes). There are now apps which allow you to live to edit your appearance including facial features such as your eye shape, jawline sculpting, and even altering your complexion whilst recording video. Who’s to say the amount of damage this may cause as we grade ourselves and those around us against individuals who don’t even exist in real life. I used to follow these sorts of accounts, that was until I realised how it was affecting my own relationships in the real world.

Personality Joe Rogan before face tuning
Personality Joe Rogan after face tuning

While I’m at it, I may as well say that it’s been a long while since I watched pornography, not to say that I don’t still entertain myself, just that I don’t use external sources (TMI? sorry but someone has to talk about it). The main reasons that I stopped are that it creates and perpetuates a connection of sex without intimacy, can lead to depression, devalues real-life partners through living in a fantasy world, can lead to sexual dysfunction and impotence (!!!!), and can increase sexual perversion. Not to say kinks aren’t perfectly healthy, it’s just that these include the likes of rape and sexual violence fantasies. Find out more here and here.

“What the mass media offers is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish.” – W. H. Auden

When it comes to movies and tv shows it’s fascinating to look back and think how far we have come. I remember when I was about 20, I walked out of the cinema during Hills Have Eyes because I was so disturbed by the senseless violence. Now in the last 10 years, that level of violence has become commonplace. We are so desensitised from violence. Hollywood has begun to normalise rape and pedophilia to the point where now when those same celebrities get put on trial for it we hardly bat an eyelid. Even without going to that extreme, let’s just consider the implications of the perpetuation of stereotypes, no wonder people are so confused and divided, whether you like it or not, consuming these narratives passively in front of a screen is going to influence your perception and bias.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” – E.F. Schumacher

When it comes to current events I think it’s important to consider that only a hundred years ago we were more or less entirely cut off from the outside world. We were extremely limited to the goings-on of the outside world, and now, in our highly connected world, we are given the issues of over 7 billion people. Sure, I agree it’s important to stay informed, but at what point does this constant stream of information start to take up too much of our energy and affect our mental health, our brains literally haven’t been developed for it.

Personally, and I know many will disagree, I chose to limit the news I watch and have blocked all mainstream media from my Facebook feed and Instagram. This may seem like a close-minded perspective, but let’s keep in mind that until recent times institutions like coffee houses were created as spaces for discussion. Ideas were discussed amongst members of the public and now media outlets using clickbait headlines and write in such a matter that is designed to inspire intense emotion, often anger. There is no longer democracy in the matter in which we are delivered current events, instead, we have a series of heavily financially and politically influenced echo chambers. For the last few years I have chosen to learn of current events through podcasts, discussions with friends, or if the topic affects are certain demographic, I seek to understand their perspective from them.

“The more screen-time you consume on your device, the more revenue can the big tech make. So, your health, your wellbeing, your sanity and serenity are nowhere closer to their priorities. That’s why, your health is in your hands, your serenity is in your hands, your sanity is in your hands.” – Abhijit Naskar

I am doing my best to create awareness around what I consume, avoiding violent movies, listening to music with a neutral or ideally positive agenda, and most recently restricting the accounts I follow on social media, meaning no more Instagram models. I’ve gone as far as to cultivate my discovery page by choosing “not interested” on images I deem to not be beneficial.

Who knows the effects our media consumption has had on us already, especially as it has gone on since we were children watching sexualised cartoons and being sold toys, sugary drinks and processed foods, but at least now we have a choice. Do we feed ourselves inspiring and enlightening content or continue the consumption of harmful narratives generating a spiral of self-loathing, desensitisation and disconnection from fellow humans? For me, I choose to become more conscious, I choose podcasts over violent movies, Instagram for learning and creativity not perving, and coffee shop conversations for connection not comment sections for meaningless quarrels. Not only does our consumption impact our mental state, but it also wastes our most precious resource, time.

“One day you will look back and recall all the time you spent on social media and wonder why you didn’t invest that time someplace else.” – Germany Kent

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