Are you on a media junk diet?

By Jenn Rose Smith
junk food

junk food

*photo by Alice Gao

They say if you want a quick overview of a person’s intelligence, interests, and background, just take a look at their bookshelf (or even better, their Netflix queue). Around our house these days you’d find a mix of favorite paperbacks like Just Kids and A Moveable Feast alongside hardback copies of old classics and indie dvds. Let’s just say that cohabitating has upped my vocab: Michael has influenced me to watch better movies, read better books, and he brings a constant stream of good albums into my life. Now we’re on a journey of discovery together, and it’s a big part of our relationship. It’s not that I had terrible taste before, I was just a little bit lazy when it came to media in general. Why seek out a unknown indie flick when I could just turn on Keeping up with the Kardashians… again?

It’s really interesting — Americans have become so hyper-aware of what we’re eating (gluten-free! dairy-free! totally organic!) but we don’t seem to apply the same intentionality to what our minds are consuming daily. And if “we are what we eat”, couldn’t you say the same about whatever you’re feeding your brain?

In this incredible podcast from Creative Pep Talk, host Andy J. Miller agrees: “The sum – the average of the things you’re looking at on a daily basis — is what your work will look like.” he says. He recommends being mindful not just about the formal media you consume, but about what’s happening in your social media feeds as well. The “occasional purge” on instagram and facebook is a good way to continually groom your daily media intake, he says. Are your social media streams inspiring and and fueling your real goals? Or just distracting you from them?

Psychology Today’s Jim Taylor has even deeper concerns about the current state of American media. In this article from 2008 he calls it a “synth culture”, very much parallel to fast food in it’s development and consequences for the American public. We didn’t ask for the Real Housewives franchise, but it’s incredibly addictive. The media equivalent of empty calories. And the long term effects are yet to be seen.

Just like our bodies need real food, our souls need art — and by that I mean substantial ideas, new perspectives, beauty, and a respect for the human experience. We truly become what we consume, so it’s best to consume mindfully. With that perspective in mind, I’ve spent the last year completely weaning myself off of E! and US Weekly. Just like quitting fast food, the effects were almost immediate. I feel younger, more awake, smarter, and hungry for healthy media.

The other night we Netflixed an old classic called “My Dinner With André” and it completely blew our minds. We’re still talking about it. It challenged us to think and listen and put aside any preconceived notions we had about what a movie should be like. Kardashian cravings aside, it was absolutely delicious.


*Check out a few of our favorite films from last week’s SXSW film festival. All of these will feed your SOUL!

Orange Sunshine by William A. Kirkley

The Incomparable Rose Hartman by Otis Mass

Bodkin Ras by Kaweh Modiri

Rainbow Time by Linas Phillips