Media’s Influence on Mental Health
February 10th, 2021
By DLC Children’s Outreach Specialist, Jessica Liria, M.S.
In today’s world, the power of the media is more apparent than ever. Whether it is TV, music, social media sites, news articles, advertisements, or other forms of information exchange, each and every one of us is inundated with their influence. While we can’t always be sure the information we receive is factual, we can take control of how our emotions and behavior is affected. Consider these tips below to ensure you are practicing healthy habits when using any form of media. Your mental health will thank you!
- Balance your Exposure: Much of what we see and hear from media sources has a negative outlook and context. Limit yourself on the amount of negative messaging and increase your access to communication that makes you feel good! It is necessary to know what it is going on in the world around us, but having constant contact with information that makes us feel sad, angry, or worried will make us more irritable and tense in our daily lives.
- Think Critically: Don’t forget, media is a product and you are the consumer! The information you receive is meant to draw you in and want more. The more emotion you feel about the topic—negative or positive—the more likely you are to return. This means that you can’t always believe what you are being told. Remember those old cigarette commercials from decades ago that actually promoted smoking as healthy? Well, we all know how true that was! Always ask yourself what the motive behind the message is and keep in mind, there is more than one side to a story.
- Consider “Reality”: Oftentimes what the media projects as reality is grossly distorted. For example, photo filters! If something has been edited to be enhanced or to change its context…it is not reality. The life you live is real—don’t compare your occurring world with what you see on social media, TV, in ads, etc. Millions of dollars have been invested in tactics to manipulate your perspective, which can lead to unrealistic expectations. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment.
- Be Respectful of Differing Opinions: Understanding and agreeing are two different things. We can listen and respect the views of others—understanding how they feel on a topic—and still disagree with their opinion. That is OK! That is what makes us unique and individual. Disliking someone because they don’t have the same thoughts as you is unnecessary and goes against everything we value about community and humanity. When we listen to respond, we miss the opportunity to truly understand.
Challenge yourself to apply these tips as you use a variety of media sources and have discussions with your family and friends about what is seen and heard. Keep your mind open to the interpretations and ideas of others—you may learn something new about yourself! It is also a great way to increase communication with those around us. Most importantly, be kind and encourage others to focus on positivity.