Is Modern Media Affecting Your Mood? 1

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Our mood system is ordinarily very robust, for the most part we deal with knock backs and obstacles within a relatively short period of upset. Whether it’s an argument with a partner or family member, the car breaking down or something tragic we see on the news; we experience upset or annoyance but ordinarily our mood bounces back and is naturally restored before too long.

However, when we are struggling with low mood or anxious we are more vulnerable to external factors having an impact upon us. When the resilience of our mood system is reduced there is less of a ‘rebound’ back to a balanced mood. So it stands to reason that we are then more susceptible to prolonged low moods and the influence of negative events.

mental health newsFor example, when we watch the news we are often bombarded with negativity about events, locally or around the globe. Unfortunately human nature being what it is, bad news often attracts our attention more than good and so often the news is full of tragedy, injustice or sadness. In reality most of this news will have no impact upon our own reality and yet we feel drawn to it once we become aware of it.

If we have an awareness of our own vulnerability, then perhaps we can help ourselves by reducing the amount of negativity we expose ourselves to.

For example, if you know you are particularly sensitive to bad news about injustice, it may be worth considering what you stand to gain by exposing yourself to this?

We have a tendency to look for things which reinforce the way we feel and what we believe. When we feel low or if there is a strong sense of injustice, we are more likely to seek out information or events which reaffirm how unfair life is.

This can be a double-edged sword. Some are able to find meaning and purpose in pursuing sources of injustice and shining a light into dark areas, whilst others may become sucked into a vicious circle of proving to themselves how unfair the world is. Of course it’s quite possible to fall into both camps simultaneously. The key here is recognising that none of us are immune to the effects of constant negative stimulus.

As someone who advocates increasing curiosity and awareness, it may well seem odd to suggest that we avoid sources of potential information. However, as with all things the key is often in finding the right balance for you. Too much of any one thing is not good for any of us and this is no less the case with modern media.

News

Henry David Thoreau was a philosopher and writer who lived in the 1800s. Thoreau had much to say about simplifying our lives in order to live more freely from stress. This is what Thoreau had to say about the news :

‘“And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter, – we need never read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications?”

When we consider that Thoreau lived nearly 200 yrs ago, before modern technology even existed, we can only imagine how shocked he would be at the barrage of information we are now continually exposed to on a daily basis.

Thoreau simplifyIt’s equally shocking to think that without modern technology, there were still those who felt this amount of news was unnecessary. Whilst Thoreau’s message may seem quaint, the thought behind it is worth considering.  Is it helpful to know about everything that is going on outside of your immediate world? Or might this be fuel for a negative cycle you are experiencing?

When you feel vulnerable or low rather than watching programmes geared to provoke negative emotions such as the news, potential scandals or injustices, perhaps you could immerse yourself in something positive or stimulate your imagination.

Social Media

Facebook

Social MediaDespite its many uses and appeals, of all the social media platforms facebook seems to be the most problematic in terms of its effects upon our self-worth and moods. Several studies  have found that the use of facebook can make us feel worse about ourselves.

Part of the problem is in how we might use facebook. Facebookers tend to share exciting news, things they are proud of, or the things that they are doing. For someone feeling low or unhappy about their life, this can make it look as though everyone is having a great time, doing impressive things, whilst you struggle along on your own.

This presents you with a one-dimensional view of others lives as you are only presented with the best of others experiences, which may appear to be much more exciting or impressive than your own.

This can tap into your instinctive need to compare and contrast your own life with others, which can leave you feeling like your life is mundane, not exciting, or simply not good enough.

If you struggle in particular with feelings of low self-worth those thoughts of ‘my life’s not good enough’ can easily turn into ‘I’m not good enough’.

A further problem with facebook is that those who use it most regularly often come to use it as a form of ‘checking in’ with everyone they know. The ability to contact anyone in the world so easily over the internet can be a great thing.

However, having the potential to reach everyone we know whilst we are angry, frustrated, upset or under the influence brings the risk of embarrassment, feelings of shame or potential arguments if we say something we regret. As the maintenance of boundaries is extremely  important in the upkeep of our relationships, this can create tension in our social circles and further damage our sense of worth.

It’s important to accept that Facebook does also have some potential for good. For example, we might practice gratitude in looking back through our photos or wall posts, reflecting on places we have been, people we have met or spent time with or things that we are personally proud of. The big difference here is we focus on our own actions and the people we care about, rather than comparing our experiences to others.

Secondly, joining facebook groups which offer potential connections to others may help you to realise you are not alone in dealing with your problems and that there are many others like you. These groups, when run correctly can be a great support through difficult times. But again we can see the difference here is that these support groups are ‘closed’ or ‘secret’ and therefore have boundaries.

This form of support can also be found in other forms of social media or in forum groups amongst other areas, so the question remains, is facebook worth the potential effect upon your mood?

Twitter

Whilst Twitter holds the same dangers for broadcasting our feelings whilst we are distressed or under the influence, the dynamics work differently and it would appear to be more beneficial as a result. Twitter is less geared to trigger social comparison.

Facebook requires that you accept someone as a friend before you can interact with them, whereas on Twitter anyone can interact. This allows instant access to support or information on something we may be struggling with.

Importantly, Twitter also allows those who may feel unable to reach out within their social circle, to do so anonymously; finding others who might be struggling with a similar issue or to ask advice. But like all tools or technology, we do need to accept that the problem is often in how we use it rather than that it exists in the first instance.

If you don’t feel the technology serves you well, or that on balance it is effecting your moods or mental health, stop and consider do you really need it in your life?

We need to remember that whilst we cannot avoid marketing messages in the modern age,  we are often in control of our choice of media and the messages we seek out. An awareness of this and the choice of medium on which we seek it can make a big difference in how we feel about ourselves and the world around us.

If you find that you are overusing social media, or that you find yourself particularly upset, frustrated or angered by reading or watching news, here are some ideas you might consider to manage the media you consume and it’s possible effects on your moods :

  • Take a news fast : Cut down or completely avoid any intake of news from Newspapers, Magazines or TV.
  • If you want to access news be careful with your choices. Be aware TV news is constant and you have no control over it’s content.
  • Be aware of marketing messages in magazines that are geared to make you feel less than ‘enough’
  • If you don’t want to leave facebook, limit your use of Facebook daily by:
    • Using software to lock yourself out between certain hours.
    • Remove passwords from your smart phone and sign out after using so it’s more of an inconvenience to access on a whim. If it’s not so easy to use you may think twice about using it so much.
    • Resist the urge to use social media whilst you are in the company of others, this will also improve your presence in your offline relationships.
  • Cultivate curiosity in subjects you have a genuine interest in rather than spending time numbing or reinforcing negative feelings. If these involve difficult emotions and injustices, make self-care a priority. We cannot fight injustice if we do not first look after ourselves.
  • Rather than checking social media on your phone or reading a newspaper at every opportunity such as a bus journey, consider reading a book, listening to music or an audio book.

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One comment on “Is Modern Media Affecting Your Mood?

  1. Pingback: Too much social media time – increases anxiety & affects mood…. | Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

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