Maybe I am highly distractable, but I haven’t had cable in over 15 years because if the TV is on, I can’t seem to not look at it. I think that is the idea…we have a society that is run on commerce, and therefore we are saturated with commercials. As a specialist in eating disorders, I am very familiar with the correlation between media exposure and anorexia/bulimia, but lately I am thinking about media and mental health on a broader scale. I believe media not only causes us to suffer from eating disorders, but it also causes us to suffer from depression and anxiety more frequently as well. From my perspective, the manifestation of eating pathology is fueled by media, not because of the thin ideal, but rather because of the role obligations imposed upon us by advertisers. A company sells you its product by convincing you that you would be a better person if you bought the new iflabber 3.0. Imbedded in that ad are a lot of messages about what it means to be a good enough ‘you’. The ad floods your mind with images that replace your sense of your own needs with new information. Suddenly what you thought was real is no longer real anymore, and what is real is that you (or those you love) have been needlessly suffering because you haven’t bought the product they are selling. Commercials have a very insidious and effective way of hijacking your attunement to yourself. So think about how many commercials and ads we see over the course of a lifetime. What are the cumulative effects of this constant derailment? Well, on a global scale it involves a less mentally healthy population. I’ll explain why.
Mental illness of all types stem from unmet needs. Unmet need result when a person’s attunement and nurturing of the self is derailed. Media interferes with our attunement and subsequently erodes our ability to nurture ourselves. When we internalize messages about what it means to be ‘good enough’ as a person, we inadvertently adopt a focus on needs that are interojections from the outside and are not our own. Commercials and ads teach us what to value, what to pursue, what to invest in, even if those endeavors do not speak to the needs of our selves or the needs of those in our social sphere. (I don’t need love, I need “Illegal length lashes!”) The energy that we would be devoting to understanding our own needs and the needs of people we love is replaced with attunement toward those things media says we should value. Suddenly, the genuine needs we have are eclipsed with artificial needs–needs that we attempt to fill with energy that is now not going toward the fulfillment of genuine needs. Unmet needs leads to depression, anxiety and eating disorders, relationship problems etc. So if you want to be more mentally well, kill your television.