Media

Why Media Matters

From the ever-expanding (and increasingly influential) world of social media, to political talk radio, to snarky gossip magazines, modern life is splintered and refracted in a million ways by the contemporary communication tools known collectively as the media. The information people consume, and how often they consume it, has a profound impact on how they perceive themselves and the world around them, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter strongly influence how, how often, and with whom individuals spend their limited free time.

In an increasingly plugged-in society, it can be difficult to rein in one's own media use and employ the proven techniques of media literacy, but the careful media user learns to consume information judiciously and employ social networking tools to enhance their goals and complement their personality, rather than falling prey to feelings of jealousy or loneliness. When someone feels drowned by a flood of information, rather than benefiting from the wide availability of knowledge that is a hallmark of today’s media universe, it may be prudent to explore ways to decrease media consumption.

The Social Network

For many people in the developed world, a large part of their social life takes place not in their immediate environments, but in the virtual worlds of Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media. While social media has been a vital link for many who live far from sources of support like friends and family, psychologists have begun to express concern about research suggesting that rather than increasing connection, social media may in fact be making many people lonelier, less secure, and more isolated than before. Social media has also come under fire for its role in increasing political polarization and for its willing or unwilling abetment of the spread of “fake news” around the world. Whatever the pros and cons of social media, most agree that it’s unlikely to go away any time soon.

Stargazing

Even those who don’t follow celebrity gossip usually can’t help but be enamored by the lives of actors, athletes, and even Instagram models. Many people are drawn to the rich and famous because they themselves crave wealth and notoriety. Vicariously observing celebrity life may also be an attractive pastime because, from a distance, many famous people appear powerful, flawless, and above all, happy—which can serve as a distraction when one’s own real life is going poorly. But while many celebrities are undoubtedly satisfied with their lot in life, psychological research—and plenty of anecdotal evidence—make clear that fame and fortune don’t necessarily equate with contentment. Some experts warn that focusing too much on celebrities can cause mental distress or decrease a follower’s satisfaction with their own life, to say nothing of the negative effects of the attention on the mental health of the rich and famous themselves.

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