How Positive Media Might Be Good For You

In Anxiety, Brain, Dopamine, Influences, Media Violence, Neuroplasticity and Media, Oxytocin, Serotonin, Video Gaming, Violence, Wellbeing by DC McGuireLeave a Comment

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I talk a lot on this site about the dangerous side of media, especially violent media, and how it can jack up our dopamine levels to produce states of dopamania and dopamine addiction. However, nothing is black and white. As Sophia H. Janicke describes in her insightful article for The Greater Good, positive media can actually be good for us, both personally and as a society.

Janicke, a media researcher herself, cites research that has shown positive media to:

  • Make us want to be more “prosocial” (be better people and help others)
  • Elicit “elevation”, which Janicke describes as “the warm, uplifting feeling we get when we watch someone perform deeply moral acts”
  • Make us perceive the world as a kinder place (which is a associated with benefits to health and wellbeing)
  • Make us feel more connected and compassionate toward our fellow human beings

The positive media described by Janicke releases serotonin and oxytocin, our natural calming, bonding relationship neurochemicals. Contrast the effects she lists with those of violent media, which often makes us feel agitated, aggressive, disconnected from others, and like the world is a scary place. Violent media produces a dopamine rush that cuts us off from higher-level thinking and compassion.

Janicke’s comment that, “when we select inspiring content on TV, in films, or through social media, we’re not just making ourselves feel good in the moment. We’re nurturing our instincts for compassion and kindness” is a perfect illustration of the connection between neuroplasticity and our choices about media.

Everything we do contributes to the way our brains are wired, strengthening the connections used more often and weakening the ones left unused. The media we consume is no exception. When we watch positive, uplifting movies, we strengthen connections of empathy, compassion, elevation, and the desire to do right. Violent movies, on the other hand, strengthen pathways related to aggression and self-centeredness, among others.

The happiest, healthiest, most successful lives are lived with an intentional balance between the alertness and excitement of dopamine, and the peaceful, connected sense of well-being provided by serotonin and oxytocin.

In collaboration with Devon McNaughton

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