10 January 2008

The Philosophy of Happiness – The Media & Unrealistic Expectations:

Mainstream Media is full of crap. Images of guys with washboard abs, and chicks with breasts big enough to sink the titanic, why do we think of this as the norm? Go walk outside right now and inspect the next 10 people that walk past your street and you’ll find that unless you live in Hollywood they probably all look the complete antithesis to what we see in the media. So why do we believe in the media's ideal? Why are we all so gullible?

What is perhaps even more amusing is that if you were to meet the rather ripped fellow that you saw in a magazine he would not look nearly as good in real life. Why is this? Well, firstly he probably specially ate essentially only protein and drank virtually nothing for two days before the photo shoot, so that he was nearly about to collapse from dehydration on the day of the shoot. Secondly he probably had some expertly placed lighting to make his muscles stand out in a certain way and he was probably waxed up in grease to make his skin look all shinny. Lastly, and probably most ironically, its probably not really him your seeing in the picture… rather its him having been airbrushed and digitally altered, tweaked here and there and the end product is the picture you idolise as symbol of humanity. And this is what we call the ideal?

Having such an image as this associated with normality, or at least with what we wish to be is very harmful. It is in fact extremely detrimental to our psychological wellbeing. The simple fact is that over 99% of us will never look quite like the image we’re presented with, yet we try to none the less. The true irony is that even that small percentage that could look like that image still won’t without all of the little fiddly adjustments like digital manipulation. This ideal hurts our self-esteem and typically leads us to do stupid things like exercise all day everyday in an attempt to catch up to the elusive surreal. The media encourages unobtainable ideals, well bugger them. Don’t spend your life seeking the elusive only to find when you get there that it’s not what you wanted anyway. Trust me, we’re far better off just looking at the picture, chuckling at the absurdity of the image, and simply being happy with who we are.

As I addressed in “Living in the Now – The Philosophy of Happiness with a Twist of Zen:” happiness essentially comes from embracing yourself, accepting yourself as it were, in the “now”. That is to say not accepting yourself as you were yesterday or as you hopefully will be tomorrow, but rather as you are this very moment. In contrast when we see these airbrushed people in movies who have an entire crew at their disposal simply to embellish their jaws and except ourselves to look like that; well needless to say we don’t live up to it. Even those of us already with very good genes who exercise regularly and eat well and healthy can’t match such images. Its just not real, its just not natural and most importantly it certainly isn’t healthy. So then we feel that we ought to look like this as that particular image is revered and is essentially what our society is seen to support. Hence we don’t embrace ourselves as we are but rather place a condition on our happiness, namely that “I have to look like X before I can be happy.” Therefore we envisage happiness in the future. But the future will always be the future, just like now will always be now. Hence you will never truly be happy, only for brief moments as you think about what you could maybe be one day. Is all this trouble to look like something unnatural and in fact unhealthy worth it? Is it worth sacrificing our happiness for? I mean we live only live once. Surely we ought to live with some degree of happiness?

The media is a bastion of negativity, the false hope we are presented with in visual imagery is really just the tip of the iceberg. We always read about people dying or people failing or various ugly things happening, world wide. Why don’t we get nearly as many stories of the good things happening in life? It just seems that danger, threat, depression and pessimism seem to sell better. In this case we as the media’s audience really are just as much to blame for the subject matter they choose. It is not simply a process of them choosing it, but of us choosing to read it.

What can we do about all this? Simply put, there is a need for a more positive media outlook, and the way we can try and do this is to support media sources which are more inclined to portray positive news, news which provides hope and not fear. You may well find that by doing this you also make your life that little bit better as it will encourage positive thinking, while also supporting society at large to move in the same direction. I would certainly like to think that my little corner of cyberspace is somewhat more positive than traditional media sources. By reading something like this you empower yourself and feel good, rather than feeling depressed and insecure as one does after reading about more terrorist attacks and so forth.

Simply thinking positively can completely change how you lead your life, how much enjoyment you get out of it, how productive you are, and how you yourself impact the world around you, further creating positive change. Even if it sounds a little silly at first it honestly works, after all we experience the world through our own eyes, and if we can put on the glasses with the positive lenses everything looks so much greener. A large chunk of life is after all subjective. So go ahead think positively, you won’t regret it.

The big problem however is that thinking negatively also follows a similar pattern to thinking positively, only backwards. You become depressed and down, and then so do those around you at the next thing you know you find yourself living in a hostile environment where people scowl at one another and lead miserable and unhappy lives. Unfortunately the media encourages this sort of thinking much more so than it does positive thinking. I honestly don’t think they realise how by doing this they are shaping the world to make it all the more negative.

Anyway, enough negativity for one day! We know no that thinking positively reaps its own rewards this is rather self-evident, and hence we should all avoid negative thinking as much as we can. Obviously there will be down times, but such is life, simply try and overcome then and get back to enjoying life and helping to create a better world through a positive attitude. We must drop the unrealistic expectations that the media shoves onto our backs and rather create out own ideals, based on a positive society intent on creating change of a realistic yet constructive and optimistic nature.

1 comment:

Sunny Daydreame said...

Isn't it true that all of life, not just physical features, is airbrushed by hollywood. The fact is that we don't live in perfect families, and problems don't always get solved at the end of the half hour. I'm a lot happier since I have stopped watching Television.

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