The current mental health crisis is something of our own doing. The media industry is something that we created as a tool for information but it grew into a monster with far too much power and control. And the price for creating this monster is the constant deteriorating of our mental health.

The impact of media and social media on our mental health

When it comes to mental health but not only, we always look for solutions to the many problems that we have with the industry but rarely do we talk about the causes. This, of course has a perfectly reasonable explanation: the causes are many and hard to combat as well as awkward to mention. Not only that, people will disagree on the causes and even if there is scientific basis proving some of them, the research will just be brushed of by a vocal minority who will eventually get to decide for the rest of us. But not to beat around the bush anymore, we are going to discuss about one of the main causes of the mental health crisis we are currently facing; and that is, the media.

Now immediately when I mention “the media” a lot of people will instantly agree thinking I am only talking about social media and how people spend to much time on it and all that. But when I say “the media” I refer to the media industry as a whole. Cable TV, streaming platforms, social media, news outlets, online newspapers, etc. This might cause some confusion to the person reading this now but stick with me and you will see that I am right. First off, I, like many others, appreciate the internet for being a great tool to access information, otherwise unavailable to us. The amount of knowledge any individual can have today is astonishing compared to just 30 years ago. Unfortunately, there is a “but”, there is always a “but”. But, the internet just like the media industry has been coopted by greedy corporations or individuals who only use them as tools for a couple of things: make money, manipulate, gain power. The fact that we can still receive some information despite that is just an afterthought, a side effect which is not intended not desired. Now, of course, companies and corporations need to make money, that’s how the world works. But when these companies and corporations are responsible for what people see, what information they get and even how they should feel about it there needs to be some sort of regulation in place.

How our mental health is being eroded

Of course, government regulation rarely goes well but something needs to be done about the current situations. The declining mental health of so many people can be directly attributed on the way they are being manipulated to fear, hate, dislike, events, things and people. The news has already become 90% opinion since a long time ago. We used to have talk shows for those opinions after the news where people could tune in and see people debate different opinions. But now, the news is more akin to what the people transmitting them feel about what happened. And this is called manipulations since it is done on purpose. Why? Because it sells. Bad news, outrage, outcry, disasters, scandals, these all sell like hotcakes.

People tune in, click on the link even if they now it is mostly clickbait. Let’s take the Covid situation as the perfect example. The news should just have reported the facts as they were at the time from multiple sources giving both sides of the argument. Instead it became a campaign of demonizing people that even dared to question the efficacy of the vaccine or masks. These people were blamed for the deaths of thousands, made to be public enemy number 1 by a news industry which fed on the outrage they created to only get richer. Even now, when we have so much data and we see that it is not nearly as effective as touted, not the vaccine nor the masks, people have been brainwashed so much in that period of time that we still have incidents of people going crazy and attacking others for not wearing masks. Not only that, recently in the UK a man killed his landlords because of Covid concerns. People were so desperate not to get Covid that they pumped themselves full of alternative harmful medicine just to try and be safe. This was clearly a mental health problem. There was a sort of mass hysteria created where people didn’t focus on the 97% survivability rate but on the miniscule mortality rate. And to make matters worse there was a decision to start publicizing so called “Covid” deaths every day, further increasing panic and causing people to develop more mental health problems like severe anxiety and panic attacks.

Of course this is just one example of many. Artificial racial division was created as well by demonizing white people just because of the color of their skin. People are being smeared all over the internet and TV just because of their political opinion. Even more egregious, comedians are also dragged trough the mud because of jokes. And if you are wondering how does this all affect our mental health, it's simple. What do you think being in a constant state of outrage and hate makes our minds do? One of the main causes for many mental health illnesses are obsessive thoughts couple with stress and anxiety. Does it sound familiar now? Constantly looking online for the next subject to be outraged about, screaming from the top of your lungs in front of a building because of what a comedian joked about. Are these the signs of a healthy mind?

Virtual reality could really save us

We know a bit about the cause now, but is there anyway to fix this situation. One solution towards which Neurotops is working for is the use of virtual reality. One of the main problem for a lot of the people being manipulated into a frenzy is that they don't have an outlet to let that rage go. Interacting with people on the internet is not enough anymore; that's why some individuals do stupid things like go to the streets to burn vehicles or stores or scream at freedom of speech meetings. But if there existed an environment real enough so people can let those emotion go wild safely. Sure virtual reality can be so much more than a stress reliever but we can start from there and step by step let people see how it can also help with anxiety, phobias, depression, etc. A lot of people use video games to relieve stress nowadays but regular video games are not interactive enough for some people. If you need to scream at your boss you can do it better in virtual reality. If you want to set fire to things, virtual reality will let you safely live your pyromaniac dreams. And no, unlike some politicians would like you to believe, video games, either virtual reality ones or regular console, PC or the ones on hand held devices do not cause people to become violent. On the contrary, studies have shown that people playing violent games can get rid of their stress and function better in a social environment afterwards.

Of course the subject of this blog post wants to focus on prevention rather than curing the aftereffects but this is exactly why we need virtual reality. We believe than not only will it help with treating ongoing mental health issues but it will prevent such problems from occurring in the first place. Sure at some point this technology may become addictive just like video games are for some people but it is risk we should take if we are to do something about the current developing situation. We need to get people addicted to something else rather then TV news and social media outrage. Thus virtual reality can become not only a place to vent but a place were you can relax, travel, engage in social activities, all without succumbing to social media outrage. But in order to keep this as it is we will have to do something about how the media empire operates in the first place, otherwise, even if virtual reality will be a safe haven for a while, it too, will become infected in time and become just like the TV and internet, a tool for manipulation as well as stress and anxiety inducing.

What can be done about the media empire affecting our mental health?

We have seen actual news anchors say that they as the media need to make people afraid and panicked. Of course they were using the moral high-ground of saving lives as an excuse but that's a horrible approach. By completely disregarding people's mental health, media and social media outlets actually created more victims rather than save. Suicide rate has increased tremendously because of the ensuing state of constant fear and panic. Of course legislations which isolated people for long periods of time also didn't help with their state of mind especially for very social people who need that social interaction to stay sane. So in order to protect the mental health of the population can we do something about the growing power of the media and social media giant? When it comes to television and the news, one way we could help things is by making people that spread fear and panic responsible. By now it is clear that so many things were exaggerated and still are, not only in Covid-related news but other news in general. This is done, of course, in order to garner more views, but at the expense of people's mental health. Thus the news should be forced to be objective by agreeing on some legislation which will make them responsible for sharing opinions rather than facts. Those should be left for the late night talk shows.

Now no matter which side of the political spectrum you find yourself, you probably agree that creating a constant state of fear, panic and unrest among the population with the help of the news on TV is not good for our mental health. Sure people like to joke about those that say the media is the enemy of the people and call them conspiracy theorists but this is because we all remember the times were the media had a good role to play. They were the watchdog, they were the ones fighting for the people and for freedom of speech against tyranny and most importantly they were the ones bringing us the truth. But those times are long gone and if you don't agree, I'm afraid you have a very warped look on reality my friends. As for social media, that's another can of worms entirely. But there is also a solution there which at first might seem counterintuitive and that is to allow more freedom of speech and let people argue. But won't this make people upset all the time? You might ask. It will at the beginning. But let's take a look at how things are now. Most social media leans one way with just a tiny bit leaning the other way. This creates bubbles were opinions other than the majorities are not accepted, nor by people, nor by the platform itself. But what happens when people raised in this bubble meet someone from the opposite bubble for the first time and argue. They will go ballistic. It will be like someone is denying their entire reality and they will not stand for it. This will greatly impact their mental state. But if this person already new about the opposite views and already debated with them on a regular basis, their mental state will not be in a disarray. I think a lot of us in our 30's and 40's remember a time when people argued on the internet all the time in using all matter of unsavory language but they were better off because of that.

What we must understand about ourselves and humans in general is that we need some sort of conflict from time to time in order to keep us going. In other words, we like to argue. So what happens when you create an environment were one side can say whatever they want but the other side must carefully pick their words for fear of being booted of the platform. First, it creates a bubble were everyone will agree with each other and as idyllic as that may sound to some it will have a negative impact on our mental health. Eliminating the possibility to argue will not eliminate the need to do so. This is why people will then search for things that otherwise would be quite innocuous like jokes, to get angry at. Once the subject of their anger is canceled or disappears they will move on to the next target. And you might be thinking that leaving people the freedom to argue all day long would only stress them out and make them angrier but it is actually the opposite of that. As I mentioned, humans have a need for conflict and once they do get in a conflict it is like stress relief. What social media is essentially doing by restricting people's freedom of speech is actually creating more stress and anxiety. Also on the other side, the people that are not allowed to voice their opinions also suffer from stress because of this. Both sides are not allowed to argue in different ways and both sides are affected.

In the end what we must understand is that our mind and mental health behaves somewhat like a muscle or even our immune system. If you don't use it and are constantly in a "safe space" environment it will atrophy and the next time you need it it's not going to perform well. So in other words we need 3 things: virtual reality for people to have a realistic environment where they can vent; accountability for news media that spread panic, fear and division among people by not stating the facts and greatly exaggerating every incident and event; and let people argue freely on the internet without the fear of being "canceled" in order to strengthen their minds.

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Julian Sanda
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