This morning, Eileen Flanagan, author of The Wisdom to Know the Difference talks about choices she made concerning media. I can really relate – I have found myself caught up in the culture of anger and fear that permeates the media today. She writes: “There are many negative messages in our culture, and although it may be impossible avoid them altogether, we can consciously choose what we want to feed our minds. Although I haven’t given up the news habit completely, I do try to avoid programs that get their ratings by fueling fear.”
A few years ago, I was doing a project with a friend of mine that I rarely get to see but when we get together, it is pure joy. She started telling me about her fears of the Muslim people who come into her workplace. She said “they” are out to destroy our American way of life. I was stunned. Could she not see that these were mothers and fathers and grandparents like the people in our own families? When I challenged her she said, “Don’t you watch Fox news?” That helped me to understand where she was coming from. I put my hand on her arm and said, “I hate to see you so afraid.” She pulled back slightly and said, “We shouldn’t talk about politics. Let’s talk about something else.”
This same friend told me once that she believes that TV and movies impact people’s behaviors even after they get into their adult years. She was talking about selfishness in marriage and how people are influenced by the example of movie stars dysfunctional lives and movies and TV shows that give a false view of what it means to have a relationship with someone. I agreed with her wholeheartedly when she said it, but she didn’t seem to see that this very thing was happening to her as she watched news programs that “get their ratings by fueling fear.”
Flanagan goes on to say, “At a certain point we have to reject the culture of fear, recognizing that social conditioning is not just something that happens to us when we are young; it happens continually. Likewise, I try to limit my exposure to magazines or ads that portray all women as skinny teenagers, knowing they don’t do much for my love of my own body. I try not to focus on anything that is deliberately trying to mess with my serenity.”
When I was a teen I didn’t know what a name brand was. I had a sense of fashion because I could see what the other teens were wearing, but the ads on TV at that time consisted of women standing next to their refrigerators or holding up the detergent and showing how clean it made their clothes. But advertisers, with the dawn of Sesame Street, realized they could get to parents’ pocket books by going directly to children. That opened the flood gates to the ads we see now for toys and sugar-laced junk foods.
We don’t have to be victims. We can choose to avoid those things that can influence us negatively. I have chosen not to fear just as I have chosen not to be swayed by the hard sell. I want to know what is going on in the world so that I can make wise decisions, but fear…I refuse to let that in my life any more