Are we wasting our lives to the media?
A waste of life is a life not worth living. One where no realisations are achieved, no meaningful relationships built, and led by a lacking identity. It is what the lives in our society are threatened to become if we continue to let it be chewed away by the entertainment media.
The entertainment media successfully manipulates our behaviour largely due to its effect on the brain’s reward system. Medically referred to as the Mesolimbic system, it involves mediating physiological and cognitive processing of a reward that happens when it associates stimuli to a positive or desirable outcome. This leads the individual to search for repetition of that stimulus in order to receive the outcome. Dopamine has a central position in the system, as it mediates the reward value of food, substance abuse, sex, drinks, and social interactions. The media, due to its infinite stimulus production, rewards our brains with easy, rapid information that we can’t seem to get enough of. Social media, for instance, makes a variety of content that is of extreme access to us, all of which is highly appealing to our emotions. Our brains process this stimulus as a reward due to how easily we receive a desirable outcome from it, leading to us searching for more of it again and again. Ultimately, the effect of the entertainment media on our brain’s reward systems is addiction. We become quite dependent on the accessibility of dopamine from the media’s content and require its stimulus for our overall happiness. The biggest danger to this is the entertainment media’s availability. It is of extreme ease in which we absorb more content, because independent of the platform, media is infinite. Addicted to its stimulus, we require the reward so often we become dependent on it, which explains why most screen times go above the 5 hour mark a day. Just like any addiction, once we can’t have that stimulus, we are prone to negative feelings of frustration, boredom, or sadness. We waste our time on the media, and when we are off of it, we waste our lives feeling grim.
In addition to the reward system, the entertainment media has a unique effect on our brains that nearly no other aspect has; multitasking. When in the media, we are prone to being subjects of multitasking, where we attempt to accomplish multiple tasks at the same time. The consequence is that we produce a big quantity of shallow-level work. Studies have shown that we are more susceptible to irrelevant stimuli as a result of multitasking in the media, making our brains poor processors of information., We are distracted by unrelated information and as a result fail to be productive, leading to a reduction in academic and professional achievements. In order to have a fulfilling life, we must have realisations that tend to our greater purpose. With multitasking, we are adapting our brains to producing mediocre work instead of academically or professionally rewarding attainments that would give meaning to our lives. It is truly a waste of life to stick to surface level work instead of shaping our life towards realisations that will make it worth living.
Life is not lived on its own. We live alongside other people that contribute to the fulfilment and fun of going through it. Yet the media seems to once again have a grasp on one of the most important human behaviours; social interactions. Not only are we exposed to hypothetical and false relationships on TV, we are also allowed to connect to thousands of people on social media without ever having to meet them. It is true that social media has served great importance in keeping people connected when at distance, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, which contributes to building worldwide relationships and sharing culture and information. But the media has proven to be a poor conductor of purposeful relations due to its harm on the brain’s emotion processing abilities. Especially during adolescence, where the brain’s processing of emotions and social interactions is in development, connecting emptily with multiple peers at the same time has proven detrimental to the individual’s ability to process emotions. This makes them more prone to connecting on a shallow, surface level basis, preventing them from building meaningful relationships with others. In addition, the ability to connect with multiple peers without meeting them directly can contribute to poor social skills, where an individual’s sociality is harmed by the lack of face-to-face, real life interactions they are receiving from the amount of time passed on the media instead. By spending our energy on material, false perceptions of social interactions in the media, we are wasting purposeful relationships that could be being built, ones that would truly have meaning in our lives.
Not only is life lived with others, it is lived by yourself. The one thing that every second in your life will have in common with the next is that you are the one living it. Individuality shapes not only who we are but what our purposes are in life. Yet the media has found its way to shape that too. The entertainment media produces content for its users according to what they show interest in. It has the ability to manipulate our interests just by showing us continuous popular content, which we inevitably end up consuming. Once we consume some content of a certain area, we are immediately bombarded with an overload of content of similarity, causing our interests to shift to whatever direction the media drives us to. Users will usually receive similar content, creating popular interests or groups of people of the same interests. These interests seem to be so impactful they can end up shaping our personalities based on the content we consume. It has become common for thousands of people to have similar, ordinary personality traits simply because they consume similar content. Almost like a hive mind. We are led to a certain blindness to purpose in life, where we suffer from a lack of individuality that fails to recognise what we want as realisations. If we blindly follow what the media sets out as expectations and interests, we become deaf to the true meaning of our lives, and waste them on pointless content that we will grow bored of as soon as more is released.
Ultimately, the quality of our life is not dependent on time. It is what we do in the time we have alive that determines its value. Wasting so much of it on the media, a pointless, empty source of entertainment, is getting in the way of the meaning we could build to our lives. Naturally, it isn’t possible to be working towards our achievements our entire lives, as we need leisure time. Yet as a society, it seems like we have forgotten other more relaxing forms of leisure that don’t harm our mentalities, and finding pleasure in the real world ends up being much more fulfilling. It is never a waste of life to engage in activities we enjoy, rather than passively waiting for it to end through a screen.
Korte, Martin. “The Impact of the Digital Revolution on Human Brain and Behavior: Where Do We Stand? .” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7366944/#ref67.
Lewis, Robert G, et al. “The Brain's Reward System in Health and Disease.” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8992377/.
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*Disclaimer - This article represents the author's own opinion. The article does not have the intentions of discriminating different beliefs* Essentially, for those unfamiliar with the topic, abortion