The more media we watch, the more dissatisfied we are with our own health, body appearance, and material wealth. Socializing and/or exercising are better leisure options.
We’ve all heard the expression, “Ignorance is bliss.” Most thoughtful people today disagree with this advice, rather advocating education to overcome ignorance. It seems, though, that some “education”—the kind we are offered by mass media—can be far less helpful when it comes to making us happy about ourselves.
We know that television portrays an unrealistic picture of many aspects of North American life. For example, more crime is shown on TV than most people can expect to experience in a lifetime, and older people appear on TV disproportionately less than they exist in the population. These discrepancies have been shown to increase viewers’ expectations of being crime victims and to lower their esteem and value of older people.
Studies are also consistently pointing to a general dissatisfaction with our material status the more we are exposed to media. One of the reasons, of course, is that media are saturated with advertising, the sole aim of which is to encourage this dissatisfaction in the process of encouraging us to buy their products.
It also seems that watching media with heavy doses of medical news and drama can lead to dissatisfaction with our overall health. Just as crime dramas can lead to a higher expectation of victimization by violence, watching medical shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and House can have negative effects. They can lead people to believe they have a greater likelihood of being victimized by health-risks along with an unrealistic belief in the severity of those risks.
We live in a time when information has never been more accessible, yet studies consistently show that the more knowledgeable we become, the less we enjoy life. Of course, the source of that information is all important.
The answer may be to just get out and play—it might be much better for our overall health. Ignorance may or may not be bliss—but playing definitely brings joy.