Like it or not, we live in a media driven world. We spend 11 hours a day bombarded by television, radio, Internet, and other forms of media, a non-stop onslaught on the psyche, an ever-churning series of images, sound bites, opinions, and advertisements, but precious little substance.
The media provides shared experience, collective memory. Unfortunately, many of the ideas we’re exposed to are negative and self-defeating. The pervasiveness of these negative ideas makes them hard to ignore; easy to internalize.
If you’re curious about the cumulative effect of all this media upon the mind, here’s a list of 7 negative attitudes common in the media and tips for dealing with them.
1. Mindless Consumerism: The average American is exposed to 24/7 commercials everyday. Buying things has become reflex. There's nothing wrong with enjoying life, but are you buying things to improve it?
2. Poor Body Image: Never before in history have we been surrounded by so many examples of physical perfection, shaped by cosmetic surgeons, airbrushed by artists,
and distributed by print and video. Yes, attractiveness is an advantage, but your value runs deeper than your appearance.
3. Roaming Eye: Television gives everyone (men in particular) the idea that the world is overflowing with beautiful, willing sex partners; that roaming eye can be destructive if not monitored and controlled. Remind yourself that relationships are built upon more than physical attraction.
4. Destructive Communication: Electronic media brims with insults and anger. Gentle persuasion has collapsed beneath the weight of incivility. In real life, victory is seldom obtained with witty one-liners or rude put-downs. Hone those communication skills. Learn to Persuade without offending. Connect.
5. Clique Mentality: Television programs often have casts that are socially, ethnically, and racially homogeneous. But not every story involves a melting pot. Do not be afraid of diversity in the real world.
6. Stereotypes: Television overflows with stereotypes, all products of lazy writing. Most of us can recognize a stereotype for what it is, but what of the subconscious impact of such repeated exposure. Every human being deserves to be evaluated as an individual, no matter how prevalent a stereotype might seem.
7. Danger Fixation: We’re wired to pay attention to danger; tsunamis, earthquakes, and giant asteroids; why the news leads with gunfire and bloodshed. Yet there are just as many positive forces in the world as negative. Change the focus that the media emphasizes.
Not all media is bad; it’s not. Movies often can be wonderful works of art or much-needed distractions, and there’s nothing inherently evil about television, radio, print, or the internet; quite the contrary, all forms of media provide wonderful channels of communication.
But the media’s darker side is bound to seep into our collective conscience; it surrounds us. And we’re receptive to it.
Earlier this year, I watched a short film entitled Evidence. More art film than documentary, the film focused on the faces of a group of small children as they watched television: their blank expressions, comatose eyes. Every now and then, their facial expressions hitched in response to some image on the television, but for the most part, they appeared undead.
I’ve never forgotten that film. And now, whenever I’m watching a sitcom or gameshow, I think of the way my own face must look, staring blankly up at the glowing screen. Sometimes, this compels me to turn the tube off and go outside, exchanging the gloom of the TV room for the calming brightness of sunlight, the sound of commercials for the chirping of birds; detaching from the hive mind long enough to find some peace and quiet and develop some memories (and a few ideas) of my own.