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A Healthy Relationship with the Media

You open your computer, unlock your phone, turn on the TV: you are flooded with images and articles from the media depicting weekly or daily events throughout the world. You see more COVID deaths, more racism, more protests, more tensions. In a world where information is easily spread across 7 billion people, feelings of anger or sadness are not uncommon. It is easy to lose sight of the small details in the news that bring a smile to our faces. Our brains naturally cling to negative events through their fight or flight instinct. As part of this response, our sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones causing us to feel for what is going on in the world [1].

On the other side of news reporting, there is social media; people documenting only the best of their lives. As social media platforms have gained popularity through the recent years, it has become evidently clear of their effects on health, especially amongst the younger populace. Social media is programmed to suck its audience in, to force people to keep their eyes glued to their screens. A 2018 British study connected social media use to decreased and irregular sleep patterns, which are associated with depression, memory loss, and poor academic performance. Through social media’s effects on sleep, it can also impact users’ physical health even more directly [2]. Researchers found a connection between the mind and the gut, which can turn anxiety and depression into nausea, headaches, muscle tension, and tremors [3]. Additionally, social media gives its users a fake reality to look up to. Photos can be edited and the grandeur of a person can be exaggerated; users start comparing themselves to what they see online. Too much time on social media may cause feelings of self-doubt and jealousy, especially in the teenage population. This also represents the growing importance of respectfully engaging in online communities; thinking before posting and knowing the reach and impact of a singular action online.

Despite the anxiety the media can bring us, there are so many advantages of it that we can learn to safely enjoy. All information one may seek to acquire is just a click away; information from across the world reaches billions of people within minutes. Classes, lectures, and videos from renowned people available for us to educate ourselves. Thanks to all of this, education comes much easier, and people are becoming more socially aware. Social media has also emerged as a platform where budding artists can express their talents and ideas while getting the recognition they may be looking for. Additionally, technology and the media break down barriers between people, eliminating the distance between loved ones. Communication has become easier with people overseas and others whom we may not get to see.

In this modern and technological day and age, we have the privilege of being entertained by the media and a responsibility to stay informed through fast-spreading information. However, like all contributing factors of a healthy lifestyle, everything should be consumed in moderation. The news and media should be of no exception; a source for being aware and educated, but not overwhelmed. Below are a few tips for a healthy relationship with the services that technology provides us with:

  • Only use social media that makes you feel good about yourself

  • Set aside specific time frames for media use in a way that encourages productivity on other tasks (for example, setting 20 minutes of work time before allowing 5 minutes on social media)

  • Remember to live in the moment, using social media only as a way to document things not as a way to live through them: live in the present

  • Start and end your day off your phone. Starting your day in a more proactive manner will set better intentions

  • In a work environment, help others by having alternatives to online RSVP or Facebook communities, not everyone wants to have an online presence

  • Take a break from social media all together if you feel it overwhelming you

  • When it comes to news, keep informed without stressing about world affairs

  • Use technology for its practical benefits, and use it wisely; be aware of your privacy settings

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