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Growing up, I was around my grandmothers a majority of the time. My parents believed the more me and my siblings were around our grandparents, the more wisdom would be passed on and it was at a higher rate than they initially thought would happen. Plus it was just safer in general for someone they knew personally, and 100% to watch us while they worked during the day throughout the week which was understandable and worked out perfectly for us all. But there was always one thing I always paid attention to when it came to both of my grandmothers….their intake of television.
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Now my grandmothers are not your typical younger grandparents that you notice are on the rise in today’s world. Mine range from ages 65-75 even when I was around 6 -10 years old, so they have always done things old school when it came to helping to raise me and my siblings and cousins. There were many things they prohibited us to do and places they would not allow us to go to alone, but it was all out of love. They cared about us and still do and only want the best. One of the things they did allow us to do, however, is to watch television on a regular.
For each of my grandmothers, the use of the television were different in each household. One of my grandmothers always watches television. She can sit and tell you who each actor and actress are, when they began acting, and even who their parents are whom more than likely were actors and actresses themselves as well. My second grandmother is the complete opposite. She does not believe in watching television period. She never has really, unless it was a news coverage or broadcast, but I soon found out while growing up why there was such a broad difference between the two when it comes to their involvement with modern day technology and the media.
The Effects of the Media at an Early Age
Now as you might expect, with me, my siblings and cousins being children, we always wanted to watch television growing up. Everything we done always ended up with us sitting in front of that box television with the channel dials on it that we had to twist to find our favorite channels. Don’t let us pass the channel we wanted either. We would have to run through all the channels on the dial yet again just to get back to that same channel we initial would miss a time or two. While you’re younger though, you never really notice the bad effects of how the media can play a negative part in your life thought. My first encounter with television’s negative effects, specifically the media (the news), was when I saw my grandmother crying from after watching a news article on the news. Now this is my grandmother who does not watch television at all on a regular basis, not the one who knows all actors/actresses. I remember, vaguely, coming into the house after getting off the school bus. I ate my after school snack my grandmother fixed for me, a ham and cheese sandwich with mayo, toasted into a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, with a cup of red kool-aid and some canned peaches. I remember my school bus dropped us off at her house every afternoon around 3:30-3:45pm, and it always took me about an additional 30-45 minutes to eat and settle in after school, so I would not begin watching television until around 4:30pm – 5pm around the same time local area news stations would be on giving updates on current events around us. Well that afternoon, my grandmother decided to watch television with me for a change. She typically would watch the news from time to time when she did decide to watch, but never anything else unless it was a new play on DVD from Tyler Perry featuring his famous character Madea. Other than that, she never watched the picture tube for anything. This particular afternoon was different though, I’m not sure whether it was too much being displayed, or just too many negative things being discussed back to back, but she just started crying after maybe the tenth story being aired about yet another shooting and robbery in the area. Till this day, I never asked her why she was crying, I just sort of knew something was not sitting right. This was my first time ever seeing my grandmother cry, so I was more concerned about whether she was alright, not necessarily why she was weeping openly. It did not hit me of her reasoning as to why sh was crying until I got to college.
The News and Social Media
During college times, I often thought back on my past as a child and tried to make sense of some things that either confused or bothered me while growing up. That one time seeing my grandmother shed tears in front of me was no different. I learned more on mental health and things just began to make sense for me. My grandmother was not crying because she did want to watch television nor from physical harm. She was crying because she is tired, figuratively speaking. It is a very tiring ordeal to deal with when you have watched so many negative things on television for over 60 years. Imagine every time you turn on the news to gain awareness about what is going on around you, only to find that nothing good is going on around you every single time you watch the news. That can be very depressing, nerve racking and just overall bad for your mental health. In my eyes, my grandmother crying from watching the news was a symbol and example for me watch what I am absorbing daily from the media. Just think, in the last two to three years, the news has shown us some of the most horrific images and videos for us as a society to absorb into our lives, and our minds. Being more specific, I have never personally seen a person being shot and killed a day in my life physically, but unfortunately due to news stations like CNN I have seen this happen on live television. Due to social media websites like Facebook, unfortunately I have seen this on live video. These are incidents and cases in which I was not asked beforehand if I wanted to see such a thing, or if I consented to allow this sort of thing on my pages or television screen, it was fed to me by those who thought this was best to get a point across and to get everyone’s attention on certain matters through society, but I ask you today did it help anyone? Did showing us all these senseless murders and these degrading pictures of pure death help to solve the initial problems present? Have things gotten better since then?
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In my opinion, no. No, they did not, have not and will not get better by exposing society to mentally altering photos and videos. I know you’re probably reading thinking it is just television and the news is the news, you have to take the bad with the good which would be true if ALL news is being shown and displayed and not certain things and story lines. It has often been proven that news stations like CNN and social media sites like Facebook deliberately place these degrading images and story lines onto their programs and site pages as advertisements because it gains them far more traffic than any other stories presented. The sick thing about controversy in this day and age is that it sells, and it sells in very large amounts as well. Producers and directors of these shows and programs know that the more they make the people of society upset, bothered and uncomfortable, the more money they make as a company. The more traffic they receive, the higher their ratings go, which lead to more bonuses and compensations for those same producers and directors. But what is this costing the people who are watching these shows?
This is costing you your Mental Health overall. Watching television, interacting with social media, and even listening to music has the biggest impact on your mental health than anything else daily. Just think about it, how much you work out in the gym directly affects your physical health and the same comes into the play for your mental health by what you absorb into your mind daily. If you are exposing yourself and way of thinking to controversial things daily like live police killings for you to see firsthand, or live news coverage from racist based rallies, somewhere along the lines as an African American in society, you are going to start feeling some type of way naturally. With human nature, your mind is going to naturally go to a bad place which is not good for you health wise. Now some are able to control this better than others and I commend them for it, but there are a host of others who have no idea that their mind is being played with daily at the expense of a dollar bill.
Some argue well I only watch the news to stay informed, which is cool and all but who is to say you need to stay informed? Why do you need to stay informed with what is going on with everyone else in the world? I can almost guarantee that this world would be a better place if everyone literally minded their own business and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful manner but technology has began the stages of making everyone else’s problems, everyone’s problem which can be overwhelming for a mentally unstable person. Now this is not saying that you need to be silent about certain matters. This is not saying that you need to ignore hatred and things causing you problems directly, but we do need to moderate what we are ingesting daily to improve on ourselves. In the words of Christopher Wallace you can be informed with every single detail of what’s going on in society from head to toe out here, but you cannot change the world until you change yourself. This means that no matter what you are informed of and about, if you are not taking the steps to change and improve on yourself, none of it matters and none of it will make a difference. There may be a temporary relief but nothing long term will go into effect until you get yourself right first. These news channels and social media websites are beginning the first stages of brainwashing you into believing what they want you to believe, not what you need to learn and absorb.
I sit back often and think back on the years between 2012 to 2018. I never once saw the news or social media sites showing live murders of Caucasian civilians on live television nor the internet for the world to see. Why? It is not because they favor one race over the other, but more so that they know the killing of any minority live on these streams for the public to see will get a rise out of people and will lead to the topic of racism which has always been the biggest money maker for news stations for years. This will naturally cause you to become attached to their networks for more information on what is going on. These cruel tactics are even used to sway political campaigns. If you haven’t noticed, there have been a lot of negativity in the news lately from bombings, to natural disasters and senseless killings. These type of stories increase through news outlets right before it is time to elect new officials to any branch of our government. This happens yearly. It happens every time an election year comes up, especially presidential. These are fear tactics, they always have been. The more you feel unsafe as a black person in today’s society, the less you are likely to vote at all. These stories are released during those specific times for a reason. Social media makes everything seem closer if you haven’t noticed as well. There may be a major problem going on in California and they way social media has brainwashed everyone, it may seem like it is happening right down the street from you in the state of Georgia when in reality it is not.
My first time experiencing my grandmother shed tears turned out to be the biggest lesson of my life and my stepping stone for bringing more mental health awareness to the African American community when it comes to how the media is playing with our minds daily. To this day, she does not watch television at all anymore. The last time she truly watched a television program was when President Obama was elected for a second term. Even though that initial experience was so long ago, I was able to ask her about it when I got to college and she simply explained that the media is a brainwashing, controlling tool that is often used to sway a person’s opinion and feelings however the media sees fit. She does not believe in being informed about the problems of other people unless those problems of others directly affect her or her family personally or financially. She explained how television programming during that time often brought her pain and hurt, and brought back bad memories from her own past of marching and protesting during the 50’s and 60’s when Martin Luther King, Jr. was still alive. I am thankful for her wisdom and insight on how she feels and can honestly see now in today’s reality, when it comes to African Americans mental health, she was and still is correct in her own observations from the past.
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