Does our media consumption have a negative impact on our health? And, more importantly, should we care?
Ahhh, multimedia. You may allow yourself one careful scroll through Reddit and now you’re having to get out of bed at 3am to check that all the doors are locked after watching a list of psychological horror walkthroughs. It happens to everyone, but no one knows how it happens to them. After all, it was just meant to be a five-minute scroll, right?
Neither you nor I can live without the internet media. Big companies devised the most comfortable of schemes to ensure that you never leave. Surrounded by personalised ads, a news feed that diplomatically agrees with your opinion, once-in-a-lifetime promotions that last for 2 hours 59 seconds, and with the military boot of Google identity verification stomping on your neck, Don’t Forget: You’re Here Forever.
The problem with most student-media relationships is that they have the tolerance of a whirlpool: simply cancelling a subscription turns into a 20-step ordeal that takes up your whole day. Ideally, companies need to take responsibility for forcing us to waste time but by the time this happens, most of us will have had our lives scrolled over.
Some people believe that consuming only positive media while avoiding the harmful stuff will help us stay mentally healthy, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. If only it could be solved as easily as your hand moving away from fire on a reflex, I don’t think we’d be at the point in history where people pay for the apps that teach them to breathe. Let’s also admit that the term “harmful media” is often used euphemistically when what people really mean is: “I always hated it; hence I’m not going to read the opinion that contradicts mine.”
“Some people believe that consuming only positive media while avoiding the harmful stuff will help us stay mentally healthy, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.”
On the other hand, media plays the role of a refuge for people under stress. Forget vigorous self-growth and war on society, some of us just want to spend at least pre-bedtime hour watching our screaming YouTubers in peace. Individual needs define what makes you feel better. That’s why I gather that giving strangers specific advice on their well-being in regards to media consumption might divert someone from where they’ve already built up a secure space for themselves.
When it comes to general things to avoid, I’d say don’t put your media habits where you trip over them. Visiting the internet shouldn’t feel like you’re finally in the bombshell without a clue when it’s safe to leave, which is why it’s important to limit your time online to things you enjoy viewing. Filter down your Youtube and TikTok to what comes across your studies or hobbies. The algorithm will shove irrelevant stuff to you anyway. Subscribe to writing platforms if you like language. Look up gaming groups to squeeze the juice out of your current playthrough. The idea is not to become a web-hermit or a boring stocks-and-shares grump. It all boils down to setting personal boundaries.
Instead of scrolling through millions of apps and services in hopes to find the ones good enough for limiting yourself with them, it’s wiser to just stick to what you enjoy. Spending too much time on composing a perfect media consumption plan can only last for so long until you come across a book you ought to read or nine seasons of a show to beat or fifty hours of a game lore to explore. A good plan always has unplanned things in it.
For those who wish to put an end to their mindless scrolling, start treating your brain like a cloud storage where information can be loaded for free and no password. If you want to see the whole picture, the Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) has it. CLT directly correlates to our ability to make good decisions in the long run. It has to do with how we process information through three main stages: (i) sensory memory, (ii) working memory, and (iii) long-term memory.
Just like your heart that’s constantly pumping blood in your body, the working memory is pumping the information non-stop into the long term or out to forget it. As both its name and function suggest, the working memory is never allowed to rest. The only way to help it is by narrowing down the scope of facts it must deal with. If you maintain the nature of those facts helpful by keeping them in your element, your working memory will spend less time thinking where to throw it, and your well-being will mostly benefit even if you endlessly scroll throughout the day. Just don’t scroll too far with it.