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Transition of Television to Online Streaming: Impact on Mental Health

21st November was declared as World Television Day by the United Nations in 1996 to recognise the way television has spread information globally, and brought the entire world’s attention to areas that required it such as conflict and movements. Not only does television help telecast live news, it also fulfills the purpose of entertainment for all ages, for people with varying interests through the many channels available.

However, recently we have seen a shift from watching television to online streaming through sites like Netflix and YouTube. To watch a movie, people simply prefer to go online and look for it instead of waiting for it to be aired on TV. to get access to the latest news, people are increasingly using social media and YouTube, instead of watching it on a nationally or internationally aired news channel. This is increasing our immersion in the virtual world.

When such streaming sites were not that popular, it was more common for people to watch television when they want to watch us being shown, not spend all the time staring at the screen. Now, since any form of content is easily visible online, it has led to an increased use of the internet and screen time, because we no longer have to wait for our favourite show to be aired. While in a way this may be a good thing because every individual member of a family can explore their own interests, this individualisation has also led to disconnection between children and parents. If due to television they may have been sitting together at a particular time to watch a family show, now they simply search up what they want to on their own devices, and watch it whenever they get time. This may lead to loss of affection among members of the family, since they would all be immersed in their own world.

This can also be dangerous because the internet is a vast platform. Children can see whatever they want to, even content that is not appropriate for their age and things they should not be exposed to. This can greatly influence a person’s behaviour and ideas. For example, a child may stumble upon an online community they should not be a part of, but interacting with its members long enough can result in the child believing what they say. In this way, anyone in any part of the society will be able to control someone’s thoughts and ideas, in extreme cases even their way of life.

Online streaming is not only for the purpose of entertainment, but it has become everything we could possibly want. It can be a place of worship, since religious ceremonies can be recorded live and millions of people all over the world can witness them, even revisit the recording later. It has become a platform of business, since advertisements are increasingly seen online, and movies created only to be streamed online create a lot of revenue that it may not on television.

How does online streaming impact mental health? One practice that most of us do is binge-watching. It refers to when we continuously watch something, be it several episodes of a TV show or movies. Binge watching may be enjoyable if the content is interesting, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to do it once in a while. However, in the long run, the increased screen time can cause problems like headache and problems with eyesight. According to an article posted by The Conversation in 2016, post-binge-watching-blues is a phenomena many of us experience. It is like a feeling of emptiness after finishing a session of binge-watching. Having exposure to so much content, and suddenly having to get out of it can induce anxiety. Binge-watching also contributes to feelings like loneliness and depression. It can also lead to lack of self-esteem, having unrealistic expectations and personal goals, and no self-control.

To avoid these issues, it is important for us to be able to hold ourselves back and not use the ready availability of content as a tool for self destruction. A few things that can be done include setting a timer, prioritising mental health and activities that need immediate attention, spending more time engaging ourselves in other activities that interest us such as taking up a hobby that we religiously practice, going outdoors and having real life interactions to connect better with family and friends. If we do ever feel like going back and watching something, we can put on an interesting podcast and listen to that instead, so that there is a continuous flow of content to engage us but not at the cost of our mental and physical health. If sticking to a time is a problem, it is always a good decision to cancel an online subscription and instead watch television, so that we are watching content that we enjoy but are ensuring that we don’t lose too much time over it. Lastly, remember that several shows and movies streamed online are fictional, and they don’t set any real life standards.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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