Up until really recently (like, last week), I thought that an audience can consume a lot of media without it having a negative effect on it, as long as members of said audience are media literate, take the time to reflect on the message actually contained in the media they are consuming, and analysing how it fits or clashes with its perception of reality.
So for example, I can read a fashion magazine and, as long as I remember that each model went through hours of makeup and hair, that the clothes are pinned in the back to make the fit perfectly, that the lighting is arranged by the millimeter, and that the pictures are photoshopped, I will be fine. Why? Because I’ll know that I can look amazing myself if I were on the same regimen as a fashion model and pictures of me were taken following a similar process (and if I learned how to pose!)
Of course there are extremes that I think will affect a consumer no matter what, especially when the inner nobility of man appears nowhere in a picture/scene/song/etc. But extreme media based on a complete denial of the higher nature of humans are not the media I have in mind when writing this post.
Unhealthy media can be made healthy by the way we consume them, I used to confidently think. But last week, as I was Fasting, I thought about this belief of mine in the context of the metaphor of the human body. If I eat junk food, is there anything I can do to eliminate its negative effects on my body?
I don’t think so. After all, I’m ingesting/absorbing/welcoming into my very cells a bunch of chemicals that are not really meant to be there in the first place. Similarly, I’m starting to think that negative media cannot but have a negative effect on us.
There are of course way I can minimize the effects of junk food. For example, if I lead an overall healthy life that includes a healthy, unprocessed diet and regular exercise; if I limit the intake of junk food; and if I choose less junky junk food—all of these can ensure that whatever junk food I end up eating has a minimal effect. It can even be argued that in these conditions, the pleasure of eating said junk food might outweigh the negative effect it has on my body, but that’s a whole other topic of conversation (and potentially an excuse for a writer who has a bunch of chocolate permanently stationed on her desk).
If this metaphor stands, it means that whatever negative effect of the media we consume can be countered by certain habits. What does it mean, though, to lead an overall healthy life with regards to media consumption? What kind of media is healthy and would help counter the negative effects of unhealthy media? What is the line between healthy and unhealthy media? Is it subjective or objective? And how much unhealthy media can remain healthy-ish?
Taking another step into this discussion is one that bloggers and writers like myself have to seriously consider: is the content that we are producing and sharing healthy or unhealthy?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter! Feel free to comment below or, as always, if you don’t want to share such intimate thoughts in a public forum, email me at saharsblog (at) gmail (dot) com.
7 thoughts on “Is There Such a Thing as a Healthy Consumption of Unhealthy Media?”
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This is something I think about a lot–both because I want my blog to be contributing good “brain food” to my readers, and because I feel like so much of the media I consume is designed to make me scared and nervous. I think of myself as being above those things, since I’m aware of their intent, but honestly? I think they’re just plain bad for me. The question is how to be an informed citizen without rejecting the media altogether.
That’s a really good question, actually. How are you handling being an informed citizen without rejecting the media altogether? One thought that comes to mind is to “curate” what one consumes–but again, what criteria do you use? I’m grateful that I can slash off so much of the more obviously unhealthy stuff, it’s at the very least a good beginning 😛 Thank you for visiting and commenting!
Whether its food or media, I like to look at it in terms of opportunity cost. There’s only so much time we have, or so much we can eat, so when I’m imbibing in unhealthy stuff, then I’m losing the opportunity to take in positives, whether that be reading or eating. Also, I believe in the concept that “like attracts like”. The more I engage in negative behaviour/media/food, the more I am subjected to it. So I like to limit the negatives in my life. I don’t have to read fashion magazines to get a sense of what is current – a look around any audience at my local theatre/Starbucks will show me that.
That’s actually a very empowering way of thinking–instead of being paralysed by fear, you are always recalculating based on new information you might get. Love it!
I’ve watched way less TV news in recent years since such a high percentage of that is negative and toxic. By toxic, I mean focused on violence. There is good in the world, and I would love for the popular media systems to look for it, or at least for the heroic slants available in toxic situations rather than glorifying the perpetrators of violence. The internet offers more control, plus I ask my husband what’s going on in the news. If there’s something I’m interested in, I go looking for it on the internet. Yes, we need to be informed to protect ourselves, but I wonder if the toxicity in media is killing us slowly.
You raise an excellent question, JoAnne–how to balance out the need for information with the need to protect ourselves from being influences by powerful violent images. I also agree with you that the internet does offer more control and I’m quite grateful, personally, that I can read the news rather than watch it. I also put on the “read only” mode that most browsers now have so that I don’t even see the images, and I noticed that I remember more now what happened than the horror that used to weigh on me for days at a time. There is also an increase in dependable alternative news sources that I find are a little more focused on the events rather than sensationalizing them. Ultimately though, the news in itself is quite disempowering; I feel like conversations at the grassroots should be focused on what we can do to better our communities, but instead are focused on what world leaders shouldn’t have done or should do next. I hope that as we see that the old system of top down governance continues to show its weaknesses, we will arise to support it from the bottom by doing as much as we can to establish peaceful, vibrant, and healthy communities.