The goal of the blog is to make it clear that media are vital and can be beneficial to our lives. I will do this by talking about cats. Cat videos specifically. I’m allergic to real cats. I am of the opinion that felines are fine however I am unable to devote too much of my time with them. But that didn’t hinder my from watching them appear on my social media feeds every day. Internet felines were everywhere. As an expert on media usage and the psychological impact of media usage I was curious by the reason this happened (and I admit as someone who is more partial towards dogs than cats, I didn’t understand the fascination).
After some looking around, I realized cats were among the top watched type of content on YouTube but media researchers were completely oblivious to doing research that was empirical about cat videos. Why are they produced, how come viewers flock to them, and how can they impact the millions and millions who are watching them daily? What could they possibly do to ignore an extremely loved types of digital media? I wondered and continued to complain the need to research Internet cats and the effects they have on viewers.
In the end my husband suggested that I study the phenomenon by myself as no had done it before. When I was working at the previous institution I published an article with a huge study of the people the people who watch cat videos online and why and to what extent. My research suggested that watching a single cat video can boost people’s mood and improve the energy levels of people. Furthermore, participants on my survey frequently reported sharing, liking, or responding to Internet cat content which suggests that these online cats are an outlet for connection for humans. I have had people reach me from all over the world , telling me that my research confirmed their personal experiences of meeting actual people, and eventually bonding with the common love of humorous and adorable cat videos. Many of them shared how cat videos helped them overcome scary cancer diagnosis, divorces that were difficult and stressful work environments. It was clear for me the Internet cats were a crucial element of our life and our culture, not just a way to slack off (although they’re excellent for that too as my research has proven).
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After the study was able to draw a lot of press attention, an member from the U.S. House of Representatives sent me an email. The staffer asked me for specifics on how I funded the study as well as what the purpose behind this study. The overall message was to ask why a faculty member of an institution of higher education that is public investing time and money in something that was deemed to be an insignificant task. I was really disappointed that some people had so easily disregarded the joy and connections that media can bring into our lives if we choose to allow it. From then on when I had the chance to speak to on my work, I seemed as if I was an evangelical pastor proclaiming the power of social media (particularly social media that focus on animals) to boost our spirits and make us feel connected to other people if we utilize it properly.
The COVID-19 pandemic swept to our media cycles as well as our daily lives, I felt an old-fashioned anger building within me, even though. All over the world that people and groups blamed “the the media” for the stress that comes with the pandemic and the spreading of false information, as well as general malaise that we experienced in this stressful time. The claims aren’t completely insubstantial, of course. In the past, during times of crisis as well as mass experiences (e.g., Ebola scares or terrorist attacks), research has revealed that watching the news regarding these events is linked with anxiety and distress that is higher. In actual fact it is possible to create a loop when the fear and uncertainty generated by the crisis prompt people to search for news media on the situation and the media’s report then causes more anxiety.
How does this tie in with cat videos? This is something you may be asking yourself. Yes, it does, I swear. The quick response is that watching a cat’s video on Facebook is different from watching a a single-hour documentary on the most lethal disease in the world’s history. One of the things I instruct my students in college is the fact that “media” is an umbrella term, it is a synonym for many various types and types of media content. For instance, research conducted in the spring of 2020 discovered that the use of websites that provide information about COVID-19 increased awareness of the disease however, reliance on social media sites predicted more acceptance of false information about COVID. This is just one of the numerous examples of how it’s risky to group all media types into one bucket in order to fully comprehend the dangers as well asbenefits that media can bring to our personal lives, as well as in society more generally.
The main reason I bring this up is that we should be wary of making assertions regarding the things that “the media” can or cannot impact us psychologically, since there are a myriad of different kinds and formats of media. The content as well as the medium used to deliver it and the characteristics of these media (e.g. the degree of interaction) and how these influences interact with our personal lives and personalities can affect how we react to the messages of media. But, the subtleties of the effects of media are usually overlooked in public debates about the role media plays in shaping our attitudes as well as our feelings and actions. If we completely eliminate social media for instance to prevent misinformation, could there be negative, unintended consequences? Below, I provide a few instances where public discussion and research-based studies on the media’s effects differ.
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Social media and teens
Numerous news articles and parenting experts assert that using social media is detrimental to teenagers. Undoubtedly, the use of social media has negative effects on some adolescents, much like marijuana use and parents becoming divorced, large class sizes and other factors that may lead children to go off the rails. However, longitudinal research shows that the mere presence of use on social media is not a cause of harm. However, the way teens react to the use (does it create stress levels to be high for instance?) and other variables such as gender, for instance the user of social media (girls more than men, for instance) can be associated with negative effects (e.g. sleeping less) as a result of social media use. Studies that used saliva to determine stress biomarkers found that adolescents who were depressed however, not healthy adolescents, displayed anxiety responses following using social media. In short, some adolescents are more likely to react negatively to social media usage, while some (particularly individuals from marginalized groups or those with health challenges ) successfully make use of it to connect to social networks, support from friends, or even an adorable cat video to boost their spirits.
Sleep and media use
Many blame the use of media as the reason for their poor sleep However, research that rigorously examined the causality and effects of that relationship was not available. Recent research using media diaries as well as EEG measurements of brain activity has shown however that the use of low doses of media that are not stressful prior to bedtime did not affect sleep quality. Moreover in the event that the media usage was done in the hours prior to the time of bed, it was connected to a greater amount of amount of sleep. Other research has found that students at universities who utilize various types of media in the hours prior to bedtime are actually more sleepy than those who don’t make use of a wide range of media. The researchers of this study believe that the motives behind media usage and the motives individuals have for it alter depending on whether it helps sleep or makes individuals feel satisfied (or even fatigued) enough to allow them to rest comfortably at night. Like teens and their use of social media the setting (i.e. the type of media used, as well as the user who is using it, as well as the state in which they are) is crucial in determining whether media use before bed causes harm or improves sleep.
In assessing the advantages of media usage
I will never attempt to deny or minimize the harms certain kinds of media may create. But, let’s not wash your baby away with the water. Although the general discussion about media consumption is based on the commonly accepted notion that it stress us out and is a waste of time, and can even make us stupid, research suggests that the use of media is an integral element of our lives which can help us become happier and more effective people if we approach it correctly. For example I am a Penn State colleague, Dr. Mary Beth Oliver, along with her colleagues, are the authors of nearly a decade of studies on the importance of engaging media experiences in improving our lives, helping us to connect with one another and developing a greater appreciation for humanity as well as nature. This could include YouTube videos on “free hugging” and watching films that showcases the beauty of nature. world.
We can also use media to reduce our stress. The previous studies of college students and cancer patients discover that media usage can be a standard method for dealing with stress, and one that they believe is effective in conjunction with other popular strategies to cope with stress, like exercising or having fun with friends. In the COVID-19 context, my colleagues and I discovered that watching three COVID-19-related memes was associated with lower stress levels as well as increased confidence in one’s capacity to cope with the pressures of being a victim of the effects of a pandemic.
Becoming mindful media consumers
So, if we consider that media are equally harmful and beneficial for us What’s the best thing for a Netflix watching, listening to podcasts and smart phone owner to do? What’s the “trick” is to consider your media habits and find out more about how it may be impacting your life. If you find that a certain newscast that is making you anxious and you need to take a break, do so. If you find that certain accounts that you follow on social media consistently cause you to twitch your eyebrows or sigh, then you should unfollow them. If you’re sure that you are certain about what the effects of media have on the people around you consider taking a few minutes to study the research and determine if the results are in line with your assumptions. The media industry has the power to decide on our media-related diets as we do when we decide what we eat for our food and snack. Like a cat that wouldn’t give up on a meal that isn’t good enough Be selective about what you are putting before your eyes and you could discover that the media can bring more happiness to your daily life that you thought.
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