You have likely heard the expression "you are what you eat." Although this is typically used in reference to the importance of eating a well-balanced diet, it also holds true regarding the amount and type of media you consume. With the advent of cell phones and the internet, the amount of time and the way we interact with media has been changing. The typical American now spends more than 7.5 hours per day interacting with various forms of media. This includes about 347 minutes per day with traditional media such as TV and radio, in addition to 470 minutes per day with online media including news and social media. This trend of excessive media consumption has resulted in a condition I describe as "access-indigestion"!
We now live in a culture addicted to 24/7 news and entertainment and numerous studies have shown that excessive media consumption can result in increased stress, anxiety and illness. The impact is most devastating on children and adolescents; but there are negative impacts on adults as well. Because the various media outlets are constantly vying for your attention, the news frequently consists of a variety of catastrophes and calamities. As a result, the news is no longer an objective reporting of the events of the day but has instead become a showcase for sensationalism designed to shock and scare you.
The expression "no news is good news" used to mean that not hearing any bad news meant that nothing was wrong. Unfortunately, in our modern age of 24/7 negative news coverage, the phrase "no news is good news" has become our reality. The effect of this constant barrage of negativity has significant negative impacts on both physical and mental health. According to a WebMD article, 43 percent of all adults suffer adverse effects of stress and 75-90% of all doctor visits are for stress related conditions. There have been numerous studies, which demonstrate negative health effects of stress such as increased risks of strokes, heart attacks, and depression and anxiety disorders. Although we need timely access to basic news and information, the vast majority of what passes as news does very little to help us improve the quality of our day-to-day lives.
Here are few suggestions on how you can avoid the negative effects of "access-indigestion":
- Limit your recreational "screen time" to less than 2 hours per day.
- Limit the locations where you will access media and try to insist that everyone regularly "unplug" from their devices during family activities such as dinnertime and before bedtime.
- Develop stress reducing healthy habits such as yoga or regular exercise, which will help alleviate stress.
Although we now live in the age of technology and information, we should realize the negative impact the excessive media exposure can have on our health and sense of well-being. I encourage you to practice "unplugging" from media, allowing your soul regular opportunities to rest and recharge.