We consume media to manage our emotional states

Media is an emotion-altering invention.

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7 We consume media to manage our emotional states

Excluding reasons that are utilitarian in nature, like doing something for work or for someone, have you ever wondered why we consume media?

Consider, for example, the act of listening to music. It has no direct utility for anything aside from its impact on ourselves. It does not help our work get done directly, but it helps make us motivated, indirectly helping us do our work.

As another example, consider why we watch cat videos on TikTok or YouTube. We do it to lighten our mood, so we can be better at what we really have to do.

Or think about the books we like to read. Why do we read tragic stories or novels that we know will make us sad? So we can feel the catharsis at the end.

Whatever media we consume, we always do it to control our emotional states. We exclude here, of course, those driven by utility, like the need to study a book for school or learn something for work. Excluding those, everything we do with media is to manage our emotional state, typically with the goal of either reinforcing something positive or altering something negative.

Think about all the books you have read for the past two years, and exclude those that were read for utility. Do you agree that you did it to manage your emotional state? To bring you from emotional state A to emotional state B?

It might be more obvious with music. Recall all the songs you listened to in the past few weeks. Did you do it to alter your emotional state? Either to reinforce what you feel is positive or to change what you think is negative? To bring you into the mood?

This also applies to movies. We watch movies that will help us be in some desired emotional state. That is why we choose between comedy, horror, romance, and adventure. To bring us into an altered state of emotion.

When you feel really sad, that’s when you put those escapism movies, the Lord of the Rings and the Star Wars. Media is an emotion-altering invention.

Again, the nature of video games as a media reflects how different it is from others. As video games are mostly driven by goal setting, we rarely use them to alter our state of emotions. It is more utilitarian; we are driven by reasons to play them: to collect, progress, overcome, discover, complete, learn, and experience.

Do you play Plants vs. Zombies to be happy? No, you play it to win, to beat the zombies. It is coincidental that you become happy when you win (and, of course, with the recent invention of loot boxes, money became the ticket to happiness within games: pay to win). Playing a Souls game is the last thing you might want to do to have a guaranteed cheerful emotional state before sleeping. There is a higher probability that you will get walled by a gatekeeper and become frustrated after playing a Souls game (3.3 Mandatory Wallers and 3.3.1 Walled by Default).