The ex expat
Reeling from the negative effects of a year of bad news stories and aggressive reality-TV shows, Kate Birch thinks it’s time to cut her consumption
Instead of watching what she eats, Kate Birch resolves to watch what she watches as she ditches junk TV on her media diet.
I have decided to do what most people do at this time of year…
go on a diet. Not a calorie-cutting, metabolism-boosting, fat-fighting diet, however. Nor one claiming to deliver incredible inch loss, promising eternal body confidence or guaranteeing that elusive ‘thigh gap’ that was so ridiculously coveted in 2013.
No, at 41 years old, and with more than a dozen diets already under my snugly fitting belt (did you know, the average 45-year-old woman in Britain has been on 61 diets since the age of 16?), I am way past dabbling in such pointless practices.
More worried these days about my brain than my butt, I’ve decided to go on a media diet… a plan that involves stripping back the quantity and improving the quality of media I consume.
The plan is intended to boost my emotional health and happiness because what junk food is to the body, junk media is to the brain.
After a year of living like many Brits – inhaling negative news stories, bingeing on mindless reality TV shows and lurching from one tacky celebrity exposé to the next – I have realised that my mental and emotional health is suffering.
Take the never-ending stream of negative news stories we have in the UK. While many countries are skilled at celebrating their successes, positioning themselves in as positive a light as possible, we Brits like nothing more than talking ourselves down, beating ourselves up and wallowing in our own despair.
Inhale any mainstream newspaper here for a miserable moment, not just The Daily Mail, and you’ll be left wondering why ‘only’ one in five Britons is depressed. And while the ‘Britain is fatter, poorer and colder than everyone else, ever’ news that the media dripfeeds us – anxiety-building, fearinstilling, panic-worthy stories that grind us down to a pessimistic pulp – might fuel the lives of many fatalistic Brits, I’m thinking news of a little more nutritious nature might help me to stay sane.
As might ditching the reality TV dross that has worked its insidious way not only on to my television screen, but into my morning reading material, Twitter feed and even daily watercooler discussions.
From The X Factor, The Apprentice and Big Brother to Made in Chelsea, The Only Way is Essex and Hell’s Kitchen, this train-
We Brits like nothing more than talking ourselves down and wallowing in our despair
crash TV is not just killing my brain cells, it’s making me unhappy.
While watching fame-hungry, brain-dead, drama-generating people behave badly and humiliate themselves on British reality shows was sort-of entertaining from afar (living in Dubai), witnessing their nightmarish behaviour and questionable morals back on British soil is beyond bleak. Not least because of the worrying number of reality-TV wannabes wandering the streets, a disturbingly relentless trend summed up by the latest copy of Lonely Planet’s guide to Great Britain: “It’s a telling indictment that more people vote on TV talent shows than for the country’s leaders.”
And then, of course, there’s the very real anxiety that someone you know, not to mention like, might actually pop up in one, revealing not just their
naked body parts, but sordid secrets and outrageous behaviour. Or, worse still, that your very own child will return home from school one day and despite their apparent vocal inability and culinary incompetence, announce they are entering both Britain’s Got Talent and
Although maybe we should be more worried about our children watching them than taking part in them. According to dozens of studies, reality TV scores high on aggressive acts – a study of The Apprentice found it depicted 85 aggressive acts in an hour – with people who watch it accepting and expecting a higher level of drama, aggression and bullying in their own lives.
Aggression. Anxiety. Depression. Stupidity. Pessimism. Oh, and did I mention my reduced appetite? The many reality diet shows that haul obese people out in front of millions in humiliating fashion (they are forced to get their fat out on TV), as well as the copious amounts of ‘Look how disgustingly fat I am’ newspaper stories circulating is making me choke on my chips.
But all this doesn’t mean I have to give up my remote control or iPad – I just need to change channels and read and watch things a little less popular.
It’s sad to think that the most popular media here in the UK is also the most depressing and negative – what does that say about us Brits?
So I now have the TV tuned to arts and culture on BBC Four, while flicking through digital editions of highbrow current affairs magazines such as
I feel smarter already, merely by not filling myself with McMedia meals three times a day. I’m just hoping that my diet lasts longer than the average 19 days.
Overworked, overwhelmed and over there... long-term Dubai expat Kate Birch misses
her maid, struggles with small talk and is desperate for someone
to pack her shopping