media consumption and health


For those who’ve been following me for a while, you might know that I’m mid-way through my first semester of university. My primary area of study is in mass media and communication, and lately, I’ve done a lot of thinking on the kind of media I consume and how it affects me.

Every part of my education is completely online. Yes, I’m living on campus, but I’m going through posted video lectures, PDF readings, zoom discussions, and countless links every single day. I never realized how much of my education up to this point had been through face-to-face interaction.

I’m an independent learner. I like to take home information, sit with it, analyze it, and come back having understood it. From there, I can work with it and answer questions about it. I find it strange, though, that I’m struggling to do that same thing when all of my work is online. I feel that now, the only way I learn is by internalizing all of the media my professors and instructors throw at me. When you’re taking 15-17 credit hours, that can be quite a lot dumped on you.

Some of the positives, though, outweigh the negatives. Because my courses are loosely related, I’m able to link topics like identity to leadership practices and media studies. A documentary I watched for my American Identities class helped me communicate in a discussion led on sexual assault awareness. Online/synchronous learning allows you to do something we don’t have time for in physical classes: I can absorb the information, reflect on it, and apply it to the rest of my knowledge.

Every day, we’re spinning a web of the media we consume. How we feel about the information in our minds shapes how we perceive the world. If I only read my Twitter feed, my world will be all about Donald Trump (if you looked at Twitter right now). If I only watch Ratched on Netflix, my world will be spooky and badass.

But something I haven’t been doing, and something a lot of my fellow students aren’t doing, is stepping back from the media. How much can you consume before it becomes your whole world? Am I going to return for winter break, only to lecture everyone on how to diagnose a conflict and conjugate French verbs in imparfait?

There’s something to be said for academic immersion. I cannot relay how grateful I am to be in an environment where everyone’s priority is on learning and becoming better versions of themselves. My friends have big dreams, and they want to make the universe better, and I have so much respect for nearly every person I meet here. But we are not just our studies.

Social media targets mental health in such a positive way right now. It’s great! You can find any number of resources for hotlines, or how to practice non-fluffy self care, or mindfulness activities. What’s missing from the conversation is how the best course of action regarding mental, emotional, and dare I say physical needs is to rest. It might sound silly, but resting is the one thing we overlook when we ask, “how do I feel better?”

Current society (in broad terms, yes) prioritizes doing. Doing anything. So when faced with an issue regarding our health, our first reaction is probably, “what can I do?”

Listen well: there is nothing you have to do. Humans are so bad at intuitive healing these days. Honestly, sit down, feel your body, listen to your mind, let your emotions sit. Slow down. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is my body saying I need? How can I manage that right now?
  2. Are there thoughts in my head? Is there a way I can organize them?
  3. What am I feeling?
  4. Why am I feeling this way?
  5. Is there something wrong?
  6. Am I just fine, and this is a check-in?
  7. Have my habits changed lately? Is this positive or negative change?

If you don’t think you’ll answer these questions without biased, consult someone close to you. Often, the people who love us are the people who notice the most minor changes in demeanor. Maybe they’ll have something to offer about concerns or triumphs in your life.

Give yourself respect and love in trying times. Remember that it’s okay to feel kinda crappy. It’s okay to have things to celebrate, too. Allow yourself to feel and just exist, because you are human, and that’s all you can do sometimes. Much love.

-ellynn ❤