As people continue to adopt the cord-cutting trend, they turn to streaming video and social media to consume and share content. Zenith, an organization that tracks the shift in media consumption, reports traditional television and internet usage are converging, with the average person watching 170 minutes of television to 140 minutes of online media per day. Social media also receives regular visits, with the Global Web Index saying people use social media sites for two hours or more every day.
The increased consumption of media and social media sites is prompting thought about its effects on people. Specifically, some people worry it causes depression, sleep deprivation, and feelings of isolation. Others say the constant connectivity allows people to learn, form friendships, and find emotional support.
The truth most likely lies somewhere in the middle. Streaming and social media can result in either personal gain or loss, but the final outcome ultimately depends on the person and how they choose to use streaming content and social media.
Streaming Media’s Negative Effects
The University of Southern California (USC) offers insight into the negative effect of sleep deprivation mentioned earlier. Since viewers can watch shows at any time and on any connected device, they sometimes find it difficult to turn off the shows and head to bed. When they drag themselves to class, work, or some other place, they shuffle in, bleary-eyed and exhausted. The exhaustion often leads to other negative results like absenteeism, loneliness, and depression.
The final two effects have been studied a great deal in recent years, especially in relation to social media. Reports, like the one published by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), suggest the negative feelings arise from streaming and social media’s “addictive” nature. People’s brains respond to social media and streaming the same way they do to other addictive substances. When a person can’t get “high” on their favorite site, they sometimes become irritable, anxious, or depressed.
Streaming Media’s Positive Effects
But social media and streaming isn’t all bad. It produces good results too. Many people use social media to stay connected with friends and family members. Others employ it to create a support network.
Social media and streaming content can also produce more knowledgeable, engaged citizens. The Pew Research Center reports the majority of surveyed Americans who use social media feel more informed about products and services (81%), national and international news (75% and 74%, respectively), and pop culture (72%). When it comes to responsible citizenship, streaming content and social media greatly impacts millennials and Generation Y. These age groups don’t consume digital content passively. Rather, they watch news and documentaries and act on the information, spearing movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo.
Streaming for Good
The above findings demonstrate that social media and streaming video can result in positive or negative change. To help ensure the former, use the following seven tips.
1. Check the internet speed. Streaming requires high-speed internet, specifically, high download speeds. To find the best internet provider for streaming, you should compare Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
2. Expand the content library. Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix offer more than entertaining content. The three also feature a variety of documentaries and educational shows. For streaming workouts, turn to YouTube.
3. Start with select shows. People sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the shows available on Netflix and Amazon and thus stick with the shows they know. To prevent that, you should start with some select, inspirational shows, such as Man on Wire, Step, The Bad Kids, and Keep On Keepin’ On.
4. Follow some new accounts. Like with Netflix, choosing whom or what to follow on Instagram or YouTube can be challenging. You can simplify the work by beginning with these four uplifting Instagram accounts: National Geographic, The Traveling Mr. Fox, Humans of New York, and Grace Chon. Or you can check out these four inspiring YouTube channels: Mateusz M., Be Inspired, TED, and Upworthy.
5. Give streaming a purpose. Many activities improve mental health and well-being, such as learning something new, having a good laugh, or choosing to be kind. Social media and streaming content enable all three.
6. Limit screen time. Since spending too much time on social media or streaming videos can affect your mental health and well-being negatively, you should set boundaries for your screens, both small and large. You can follow through on this step by first taking control of your smartphone.
7. Reduce streaming usage. It’s fun to relax with a streaming video at night, but you should turn off the show thirty minutes to an hour before bed. Doing so settles brain activity and can prevent restless sleep and insomnia.
Streaming and social media are here to stay, especially as people continue cutting the cord. Viewers thinking about cutting the cord should take two steps. First, you should review the current data about positive and negative effects. Second, you should adopt streaming and social media habits that lead to positive mental health and well-being. If you do, you can stream for good—not only for your own good but also for the good of others.