50 Shades of Media : Pain and Pleasure

It is not improbable to think that media has had many polarizing attributes on its consumers since its inception. Throughout my 7 day study which involved me recording my consumption of media, I was able to analyze and deduce not only what I put in my media diet, but how it affected me physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

The analysis results yielded several unexpected effects; both exceedingly positive and negative by nature. My media habits enabled me to determine the parts of my life that make me tick and the parts that make me shudder.

Overall Media Consumption

The total amount of time that I spent on mass media in 7 days was 139 hours and 13 minutes. This involved multi-tasking in some cases. Driving while listening to my music through a Bluetooth connection was not the only way that I partook in more than one activity simultaneously.

I would often jump to YouTube while doing research online for college. I would also play music while talking or texting my girlfriend via Facebook messenger. This big cluster of multimedia is a trend that made my daily numbers grow even higher than they would have if I used each medium individually.

I am not surprised by the outcome of my media analysis since I love technology and willfully choose to consume as much media as possible to acquire more knowledge. My hobbies include playing video games, writing, adventuring to new places, and singing at a karaoke club.

All of these activities require the use of media in their respective ways. On my spare time, I invite my friends over to party and play videogames while listening to loud music.

Psychological Effects

“In an early study of male body image, 95% of college men expressed dissatisfaction with some part of their bodies “(Agliata,Tantleff-Dunn, 2004, pp7-22). This correlates with the perfectly sculpted, often digitally enhanced physiques shown on TV. Advertises create this unrealistic image on purpose, and producers do it unintentionally as Karen E. Dill mentions in the book, How Fantasy Becomes Reality. “Those feelings are an unintended consequence of the natural process of social comparison meeting the plastic world of Hollywood where appearance is everything and where depth and substance do not translate well.”(Dill, 2009, p17).

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This ultra-masculine body image portrayed by the media at large personally affects my self-confidence at times. It makes me feel that I will never be as attractive as a fictional depiction of a body image, no matter how hard I try.

I divided my media diet into different types of activities to be able to sort out my cognitive responses to them. As far as watching TV is concerned, I do not tune in. I go to YouTube for my source of entertainment instead. This enables me to have a sense of control and customization of my media consumption so that it is less detrimental to my mental health.  Even with a careful selection of programming options, there were advertisements on YouTube that occasionally served their purpose by making me feel uncomfortable and bombarding me with negativity.

Most of these advertisements were for the upcoming elections. Their ads were heavy on rhetorical devices that make me feel fear, implying a grim outcome to anyone who did not vote for their candidate. The propaganda affected me to the point that I would go out of my way to research the candidate in order to calm my nerves and become self-aware of what America was getting itself into. It felt very enlightening to conduct this research, which concluded that the advertisements were extremely biased and often paraphrased things almost completely out of context.

It might have been what the ad sought to do all along by getting me to worry enough to take action.

Media consumption is not all bad news. There was a time I had to wake up early for school to print out papers and edit my colleague’s work before deadline. I was not too thrilled about it, seeing as how I am far from a morning person and my driving skills are greatly affected by lack of sleep. Enter Kendrick Lamar, a well-known rapper and arguably the greatest MC of all time.

kendrick_lamar_f-i-b_2016

I was driving through what felt like a fog of sleepiness, feeling really overwhelmed by the events that would unfold later that day, but then Kendrick came through the car speakers. The song was called “how Much a Dollar Cost” which I had never taken the time to understand the lyrics to at this point.  I decided to listen in closely this time. I knew it was about a homeless man in South Africa asking Kendrick for money. Kendrick quickly turns the man down in the song and notes that he believes that the man is just a crack addict and that he “recognized this type of pan-handling all the time” (Lamar, 2015). The homeless man stared Kendrick down until he made Kendrick feel disrespected.

Kendrick mentions how if he had a bat, it would be aiming at the homeless man’s neck. To Kendrick’s surprise, the homeless man rebukes all criticism by asking him if he has ever read Exodus 14, adding that “a humble man is all that we ever need. Tell me how much a dollar cost.” (Lamar, 2015). This makes Kendrick ponder the true value of a dollar, and at what cost he attains it. Whether he is sacrificing his good health, love, or a spot in heaven to have money. He begins to feel great resentment for his selfish ways. I felt it, too. I was transported to Kendrick’s train of thoughts during that verse. It felt like I was in his head, having the same kind of epiphany within myself.

For those unfamiliar with “Exodus 14”, it is the biblical story of how God picked Moses to lead the people and part the seas, albeit he was the most unconventional leader imaginable. Moses was old, a poor speaker, and lacked charisma. These factors are the opposite of Kendrick. Before that verse, Kendrick has always attributed his selfishness to being what kept him so famous, but this homeless man opened Kendrick’s eyes in such a way, that he put the whole meaning of success into perspective. The homeless man revealed himself as God at the end of the track and a now humbled Kendrick repented for his sins.

To answer the question that the track name “How Much a Dollar Cost” asks the audience, it is referring to how the figurative value of a dollar is far higher than the literal value of a dollar.

The song impacted me so greatly that it made me a more determined, humbled person who would not take any aspect of life for granted. I focused and carried myself productively the rest of the day without any mood swings. This was all thanks to the level of motivation I achieved from Kendrick Lamar through his lyricism. I couldn’t have done it without his media influence.

How Much a Dollar Cost also happens to be President Obama’s favorite  track of 2015 : 

Physical Effects

It was late one night that I realized how sleep deprived I was. The cause of my lack of sleep was online research for a journalist article for journalism 105. I would grind my teeth and slam my fist against my computer table after spending hours online, searching for the right piece to source my paper with and coming out empty handed.

I would smoke more cigarettes than usual to alleviate my stress and drink coffee in the mornings in hopes of feeling alive. This pattern persisted for weeks until I was able to catch up on all of my school work. I felt like ripping my hair out the whole time.

A positive example of the physical effects that media had on me throughout my study was when I finally had the chance to sleep. I was still very anxious about turning in an assignment the next day, but I went on YouTube and searched for sleep music until I found a 6 hour long video that played ambient sounds and soft harmonies that my brain associated with tranquility.

The music acted as a wonderful sleep aid, transporting me to a different state of mind, where all of my worries are too far ahead of me to ruin my day. As my eyes grew heavy, I felt tension leaving my body.  I felt well rested the next day and got a good score on my assignment. If it were not for media, I would have been tossing and turning all night.

Emotional Effects

One of the things that is the way that we interpret things through text messages. There is no metacommunication, which is nonverbal cues.  While unable to detect tone of voice, read body language, or check facial expressions, it often makes the inflection of words mean something unintentional through text messages.  The word usage could come off a lot stronger than it is supposed to sound. It could also sound sarcastic.

It is these little misunderstandings that cause me to get mad at my girlfriend sometimes. It’s not often, but since I spend 18 hours of my week texting her alone, a misunderstanding is bound to happen. Luckily, there are also phone calls to clarify meaning, so that any hurt feelings and offense taken is clarifies through a better form of metacommunication. I can detect her tone through the phone, so I no longer have to feel that she is being passive-aggressive towards me.

We love each other very much, so we put in extra effort to make sure we are both emotionally stable and happy on a regular basis. Talking and texting her is a media investment that is always worth it.

Feelings of depression linger for too long with no definite conclusion. People who suffer from this emotional illness often have no-one to turn to. That is where Kendrick Lamar comes in yet again.

To send an overwhelmingly positive message, an organization known as Find Your Words has taken the lyrics from Kendrick’s song “I” and used them to promote depression awareness as well as encourage those who suffer from this disorder to seek out the help that they need.

I can think of an instance within the timespan of my media analysis where I was feeling sad and neglectful towards myself. There is nothing that music will not cure. The soulful sounds of Frank Ocean’s Blond album pulled me out of my funk.giphy1

I was eventually able to realize that my problems were so small and insignificant, that it lifted my mood.  I sang along and smiled to the lyrics instead of sitting back, drained and unenthusiastic as I normally would under the spell of depression.

The symbiotic connotations in all of Frank’s songs paint such a beautiful picture in your head that you cannot help but be completely immersed. He sings about all of the great moments in his life and reflects on them, enabling your mirror neurons to program you to do the same.

Conclusion

Like a drunk driver, my media consumption tends to veer from left to right inconsistently. The positives do not always outweigh the negatives, but the negatives do not constantly occur.

I do not feel like I have 100 percent control of my media diet, but it is important to be aware of what you take in. As social psychologist, Karen E. Dill says, “The passion behind people’s rejection of the premise that media affects them is very telling” (Dill, 2009, p10).

For anyone with the viewpoint of a media apologist, I would strongly suggest that you log your media consumption and make the same media analysis that I did. It should include the psychological, physiological, and emotional effects that media provokes you to undergo. You too will discover that media plays more of a significant role in your life than you initially gathered. It shapes everything that makes you the person who you are today, whether or not you are completely aware of it.

References

  1. Lamar, Kendrick (2015,March 15). How Much a Dollar Cost Lyrics. Genius. Retrieved October 16, 2016, from http://genius.com/kendrick-lamar-how-much-a-dollar-cost-lyricist
  2. 2. Agliata, D., Tantleff-Dunn, S. (2004, February). The Impact of Media Exposure on Males’ Body Image. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 23.1,23(I), 7-22. Retrieved October 16,2016, from http://search.proquest.com/openview/8a9afce6819e83bf4a881b4ac5cba383/1?pq-origsite=gscholar
  3.  (n.d.) Find Your Words Campaign. Retrieved from https://findyourwords.org
  4. Dill, Karen E. (2009). When Fantasy Becomes Reality.p10. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  5. Dill,Karen E. (2009) When Fantasy Becomes  Reality. p17, New York,NY: Oxford University Press.
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