Media is omnipresent in our lives, being our primary source of information and connection. Even so, I can’t help but notice that it also promotes many questionable ideas that are detrimental to one’s wellbeing. Media is full of toxic messages, but I’ve chosen three of the most prevalent ones for this article.
1. Brag about everything, even if you don’t have much!
Social media is full of travel photos, fancy clothes, parties, jewels, or devices. Even a trivial image of a coffee cup gathers thousands of likes if it’s from a fancy café. Some people lead a luxury life and show it on social platforms, encouraging their followers to do the same, even if their means are modest.
Thus started the race for celebrity, likes, and recognition; everybody wants to be an influencer, whatever that means. People visit certain places only for a selfie that will bring them fame. Some sacrifice their time and money just to brag about a life they can’t actually afford.
It seems to me that more and more individuals fall for these toxic messages. Media made them believe it’s OK to share every aspect of their life in exchange for a few comments. At the core of the phenomenon lies the need to be appreciated, which all of us have. The internet simply exploits it.
As a wake-up call, I’ll quote a line from the famous Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club:
“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”
In short, we need to find different ways to fulfill our needs and enrich our lives. If we chase materialistic objects and live for others to see, do we live at all?
2. Are you feeling tired lately? Overwhelmed? Surely there must be something wrong with you!
This one drives me up the wall. Almost every commercial features a worn-out corporate employer who clearly needs a break. Yet, the message is always ‘Take this vitamin or that supplement and go back to work your ass off until you die!’ While there’s nothing wrong with having a rich diet and monitoring your health, I feel the media (and Big Pharma) encourage people to focus on treating the symptoms, not the real problem.
Stress, sleep deprivation, and burnout appear when a person doesn’t feel capable of managing a particular situation. In those cases, they should take a step back, understand the problem and change both their view and the stressful environment which has caused the symptoms in the first place. Instead, the toxic messages spread by the media tell us to grind and keep slavering at the expense of our wellbeing.
3. Be different, but not too different. Otherwise, we’ll cancel you.
Undoubtedly, we can express ourselves more freely than in the past and the means to report the violation of this right. People can raise their voices to advocate for their uniqueness, thus educating others on culture, traditions, identity, lifestyle topics, etc.
While the media seems to embrace the world’s diversity and promote various stories, it quietly shuts down powerful voices because they didn’t fit the frame. These toxic messages are along the lines of ‘You are free to say whatever you want as long as you don’t stray from the path we designed. Play the role we want you to, but don’t stick out. We don’t like people who think for themselves; we don’t like people who might challenge us.’
As an example, I’ll describe a situation from ‘American Gods,’ a show I used to enjoy. Orlando Jones played Mr. Nancy, a god who advocated for the black community, pointing out the injustice and pain inflicted on them. After being a producer and scriptwriter on season two, Jones was fired by the third season producer because he, an actor of color, wasn’t a good representation. In other words, the world still can’t face its mistakes, so Jones was laid off for having the guts to tell the truth. As a result, Mr. Nancy’s fans were disappointed, and the show lost its popularity.
If you pay attention, I am sure you’ll find other toxic messages all over the media, which poison our lives. It’s crucial to understand their effect on our self-worth and limit our exposure to them. My advice is to replace toxicity with relevant information on the topics you’re interested in.