It’s an important question to consider during any time of the year—and most definitely as we are now well into the summer movie season:

Does the media we consume have an affect on our minds and hearts—for better or for worse?

I wanna give you five reasons why I think it does:

#1: The Actions of the Corporations that Create the Media

The corporations that create the media we consume obviously think that media affects us.

They’re so sure of it, in fact, that they’re willing to spend millions and millions (and millions!) of dollars just to run 30-second commercials.  They figure those 30 seconds will be enough to grab our attention and make us end up in the checkout line at their stores the following weekend.

So think about this: if (a) the only reason a corporation exists is to make money, and (b) they’re willing to spend that much money on advertising, then don’t you think that maybe they’ve done some research that has concluded that such advertising does affect our minds?

(It would be a pretty dumb investment on the part of those corporations otherwise, wouldn’t it?)

Besides, if such advertising didn’t work, wouldn’t those well-known companies who did spend millions on advertising have gone broke by now?  Yet there are plenty of stores who have utilized such (expensive!) advertising methods for a long time, and who are celebrating their 50th, 60th, 75th, or even 100th anniversaries.

They must be doing something impactful in order to arrive at such longevity and success.

#2: The Studies That Have Been Done

Did you know that thousands of separate studies have been done on this subject, all of which have concluded that media like television does have an impact on those who watch it?  (If you don’t believe me, please research it for yourself.)

That’s not to say that every study on this subject is without flaws, of course.  But if that many separate studies all point to the same general conclusion that media affects us, isn’t that something to take into consideration?

#3. The Nature of TV Watching

When people are watching television, their states of mind are, basically, in what is called a “pre-hypnotic state.”  In other words, as Webster’s Dictionary defines it, they are in the state of mind that occurs just before sleeping, and/or that something is “readily holding the attention.”

We’ve all experienced it—and even been guilty of it ourselves.  Consider, for example, the person who is watching a television show or staring at a smartphone app who seems totally oblivious to the world around them.  If asked a question, they may not even recognize it.  Or—at best—they may break out of what seems like a (literal) trance with a phrase such as, “huh?” after which the question they were originally asked must be repeated.

(Some people even readily admit that they go to see movies, play video games, or watch television shows as an “escape” from reality, so they don’t have to think about themselves and their problems.  It wouldn’t be a very good escape it if didn’t work.)

Here’s my point: obviously our minds are in a different state when we engage with media such as television.  Our minds are passive, dreamy, not very “self-aware”, and—perhaps the worst of all of those—highly suggestible.  If the people on television tell us that we feel a certain way, or that we like a certain thing, a highly suggestible mind readily accepts it without much of a fight.

Think about it: have you ever found it easier to laugh at a joke on a sit-com when the “studio audience” laughs?  Sometimes they laugh at things that, actually, aren’t funny at all.  But what they’re doing the entire time is defining what “funny” is for us by their standards.  And our minds, because they’re in that suggestible state, respond by saying “yeah—that is funny; hahaha”.

#4. Drama’s Effect on Our Egos

Historically, cultures have used drama to encourage people to change their behavior.  (In Greek times, for example, tragedies were used to teach citizens, through entertainment, what was “right” and “wrong.”)

It’s actually as simple as psychology: drama looks like reality to us and appeals to our egos.  It works like this: in my mind, my life is sort of like a movie in which I’m the main character (probably the “hero”).  So I identify with the main characters in superhero shows.  I long to be like the lawyer who wins the case in that courtroom drama.  I long to look like that person everyone loves in that romance movie.

And when a movie tells me that the characters I identify with and want to be like “kill the bad guy” or “trample the loser underfoot”, then I want to do those things too.  That way, I can be a “hero” like that character is, even if what they’re doing isn’t that heroic in real life.

#5. The Amount of Time We Spend With The Media

Just last year, CNN reported that a recent Nielsen Company study revealed that the average adult in the United States now devotes “about 10 hours and 39 minutes each day to consuming media” (see the full article, here: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/30/health/americans-screen-time-nielsen/).  And that’s “average”—which means some people spend more than that to make up for people like me who spend less.

But, sticking with the 10 hours and 39 minute average, let’s do some quick math:

10 hours and 39 minutes a day x 365 days in a year = approximately 3,887 hours of media consumption per person, per year.  That’s a lot of time!

Imagine holding your breath for 3,887 hours a year.  Would that have any effect on you?  I would think so.

Imagine exercising for 3,887 hours a year.  Would that get you in pretty good shape?  I would think so (assuming you survived it).

Imagine if you read scholarly books for 3,887 hours a year.  Would you learn anything?  If you paid attention to what you read, you’d probably end up as a genius!

My point is this: anything that you do for 3,887 hours a year is going to have an effect on you.  So why would watching television, movies, and internet videos be any different?

So here’s the bigger question: what kinds of messages do you really want influencing your mind and heart—and the minds and hearts of your family?  (Do you really want Hollywood shaping your family’s values and thought process?)  Might it be a wise idea to set some boundaries for yourself and your family in terms of content—for the sake of the values you actually want to live by?

“Okay Matt,” you may say, “but media is everwhere!  How does a person even begin to do something like that?”

One website that I highly recommend that can help toward that goal is www.pluggedin.com, which offers (free!) reviews of movies, television shows, video games, music, and more—all with the goal of helping you make wise choices in terms of moral content before you spend money and allow influences into your life that you really don’t want.  I encourage you to check it out!

Today’s blog is also an excerpt of sorts from a book that I wrote on this topic a few years ago, available here (in case you’re interested): https://www.amazon.com/Behind-Scenes-Matt-Abbott/dp/1604772352/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1494874135&sr=8-2&keywords=behind+the+scenes+matt+abbott

(However, lest you think this blog is merely a shameless plug: if you genuinely cannot afford a copy of my book, but would like one—and will read it—send me a message and I’ll see what I can do.)

Whatever the case, though, my hope for you is that you’ll be wise in terms of what kinds of media “seeds” you allow to be sown into your mind and heart, as—in time—those “seeds” clearly will produce a “harvest” that will show up in our values, thoughts, character, relationships, and actions.

After all, if, as one recent movie put it, “Hollywood worships everything and values nothing”—then don’t you want better values, thoughts, character, relationships, and actions than they have to offer in the first place?