The reason we consume mindless media
It is my humble opinion that we, as a society, give far too much importance to intelligent content.
Debunking the figurative imagery in a Robert Eggers movie is sometimes fun. As is trying to untangle the maze of sentences in a Henry James novel or understanding the plot of Dark. But the key word here is sometimes.
Most of the time, people don't feel a need to consume such content charged with riddles, underlying themes or complex dynamics. When you have a sixty-minute time window between one class and the next, or between working and sleep, you are most likely not going to choose to read a chapter of War and Peace. Instead, you will probably watch an episode of Say Yes to the Dress. Why? Because the first option is tiring and the second is mind-numbing.
Most of us have a guilty pleasure show, book, movie genre or podcast that we like to go back to whenever we are in search of some peace and quiet from our hectic lives. That is us falling back on the comfort of mindless media. Mindless media is content that people consume without putting much thought into what it is they're consuming.
As people are moving out of the pandemic haze and settling back into their regular lives, all they want is a little break from utilising their intelligence. They don't want to decipher the cryptic meaning behind a show or book. They just wish to enjoy it because it is easy and funny, preferably easily funny. Even if it isn't funny, they want to consume something that can be digested without criticism or questions, just so that they won't have to put in an effort to understand what's going on.
Another desirable aspect of mindless media is that it is very predictable. As the audience, you already know what is going to happen – how the conversations will progress, where a particular character arc or relationship is headed, and even how it will all wrap up. And you know these things because that is the very reason you chose to consume said content. You don't have to worry about suspense or mystery, and you will definitely not be on the edge of your seat.
This predictability also means that you are aware of the stakes. So, you don't have anything to lose emotionally even if the main character dies. Your emotions remain at a steady level. You don't experience much excitement or joy or sadness. Being emotionally high-strung can lead to anxiety and fatigue so a break from intense feelings is actually beneficial. And we consciously or subconsciously crave this break.
For a period of time, mindless content allows us to essentially suspend reality. It lets us forget about all our troubles, about what we still have left to do on our to-do lists, and about how much more we have to work to achieve our goals. It basically lets us forget who we are for a while and lose ourselves in some absurd or ideal world.
Zaima is a struggling student, a failed guitarist and a poet in need of better poetic ideas. Send her your sympathies at [email protected].