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The media we consume plays a large role in our day-to-day lives. The online posts we view, newspaper articles we read, television programs we watch, and radio reports we listen to all affect the ways we think and the topics we discuss with those around us.
In recent years, the media we consume has changed for the worse. The mainstream media produces lower-quality news; the articles we read are often “clickbait” content, designed to grab our attention through shocking headlines or misleading information. The stories we hear about the world around us often focus on such gruesome subjects as violence, illness, war, and political strife.
We all strive to consume healthy foods to keep our bodies strong. We should strive to feed ourselves a healthier “media diet,” too. Though the world isn’t always a happy place, we can modify our media consumption so that it has less of a negative impact on our mental well-being. Consider improving your “media diet” in the following ways.
Be Mindful of Your Role as a Consumer of Media
Though much of the media we consume today is provided to us for little to no cost, it is important to remember that we are, essentially, customers, supporting the businesses that produce media for us. We are ultimately receiving what we want; by consuming tabloid-style, low-quality news stories, we are encouraging websites and newspapers to create more of this content. If we want the media to produce better content, we need to stop rewarding them by consuming low-quality content. Even clicking on a free video or news article is sending advertising revenue to these companies. Try taking a moment to pause before opening a “clickbaity” link. Is this really the type of content you want to be seeing more of? If not, don’t endorse it by viewing it.
Support High-Quality Journalism and Media
Avoiding low-quality media shouldn’t require cutting back on your overall media consumption. Instead, actively seek out high-quality media. By supporting accurate, detailed, and well-written journalistic reporting, you can show media companies that they shouldn’t have to choose between high-quality reporting and profitable soundbite stories. Sloppy news reporting leads to the spread of misinformation, which can be harmful to our society. Instead of clicking on every headline that catches your eye, seek out high-quality, reliable media sources, and refer to them for your daily news. If an individual or organization outside of the mainstream media establishment is producing high-quality content, such as in-depth investigative journalism or interesting documentaries, support these content producers, too. By supporting high-quality media sources and grassroots journalism, you can encourage the creation of interesting, informative content in the future.
Focus on Purpose Over Pleasure
The reward pathway in the brain is stimulated when we dive into “clickbait” content online. Since we are surrounded by so much information on a daily basis, it is unsurprising that only the most edgy, jaw-dropping headlines catch our attention. Though it can be so tempting to fall for these clickbait traps, avoid them if you can. Take a deep breath and remind yourself of the purpose of the news. Media was first created to inform and educate us. The news we read and watch should make us feel smarter and more empowered, not merely entertained. What if school textbooks were filled with eye-catching imagery and trivia, just to keep students interested? Instead of mixing information and entertainment, do your best to separate the two. When seeking out news media, stick to informative content. When looking for entertainment, turn on a television show, watch a movie, or play a video game. By doing so, you can become more informed while saving the rest of your free time for genuine entertainment.
Realize That Nothing is Truly Free
Though you might feel as though the news articles you read online are being offered to you for free, the reality is that someone is paying for this content to be produced. If you’re not paying for it, somebody else is. Some news organizations are funded through advertising; others may have corporations or wealthy individuals controlling the types of stories that are being produced. If a particular media outlet is producing high-quality, unbiased content, consider supporting them financially. Pay for a subscription to their publication or donate to support their reporting. By doing so, you can better ensure that high-quality content will continue being produced in the future.
See Beyond The News
Though much of the media we consume is news-centic, it is important to remember that there are many other high-quality sources of information that we can use to educate ourselves. Consider reading non-fiction books and the autobiographies of individuals you respect and admire. Watch TED Talks to learn more about science, technology, psychology, creativity, and more. Try listening to a few new podcasts to learn more about history, culture, politics, or anything else you’re curious about. Learn more about a specific subject by watching a documentary or two. By consuming various forms of media from a number of different sources, you will broaden your perspective and gain richer insights into important global issues.
Accentuate the Positive
The world isn’t always a positive place. Even so, you can choose to focus on news stories that highlight the positive, rather than simply dwelling on the negative. Of course there are problems in our world. Look for articles that report not just on these problems, however, but on possible solutions as well. Read more articles about individuals making positive changes in our world, everyday heroes, and inspiring developments in business, medicine, science, and technology. If you focus on stories that inspire you, you’ll be encouraged to make positive changes in your own life, too. If we all focused on the positive, we just might be able to change our world for the better.
We should all strive to produce the change that we want to see in our world. Take a moment to reflect on the topics you discuss, both in person and online. Do you find yourself focusing on stories of injustice and tragedy? Though these subjects are certainly important, they are often already the source of much mainstream media attention. When was the last time you saw stories of positive and uplifting news being shared online?
Consider focusing on the positive, and sharing good news with your family and friends. Yes, climate change may be a threat to our world, but there are also companies and individuals making changes and implementing new practices that will benefit our environment for years to come. Many individuals die of disease, but new cures and treatments are being discovered on a daily basis, too. Focus on the positive, and consume media that is educational and personally enriching. By doing so, you can boost your sense of well-being while becoming a more informed citizen of the world.
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