I thought it might be useful to have individuals explain how they have felt the media has influenced them. Our first contribution comes a young woman who we will call Sarah:

When May asked me to write this piece on how I felt the media has affected me, the first thing that came to mind was ‘image’.  Like most young women, the media has probably had a very negative, and, unfortunately, seemingly enduring, impact on my perception of what I consider beautiful—both in myself, and in others.   But I thought about it a little bit more, and I realized that just as damaging, if not more, has been its impact on my conceptions about love and relationships.  In this arena, I feel that the media I’ve so willingly consumed over the years has really served mostly as mind pollution.

I am not a puppet so I cannot blame the media for the decisions I’ve made (and haven’t made), the kinds of people I’ve been attracted to, and the way I’ve gone about pursuing those interests—but I also cannot deny that all of the above have been deeply impacted by the films, television shows, books and even music I’ve been drinking in since I was a child.

A brief summary of what I’ve learned from the media:

-it doesn’t matter what the man looks like
-the woman has to be trim, beautiful, and ‘sexy’ (i.e. I have to be trim…)
-courtship is all about game playing and making sure you have the ‘power’ (power to get him to want you, to call you, to do all the work)
-the woman should let the man chase (or)
-the woman should completely throw herself at the man
-sex is casual
-you can have sex on the first date but saying I love you too soon will kill the relationship
-you can get to know someone well enough to decide you want to marry them after only a few dates (where you were both playing the courtship power games)
-love is physical attraction first, personality enjoyment second, and everything else is slightly relevant
-if your families disapprove, you should ignore that they know you and love you and might have your best interest at heart—assume that your parents are close-minded ignorant fools, and throw yourself even further into the relationship
-cheating one time and breaking off the marriage/engagement/relationship is okay as long as he or she is your true love
-fleeting lust and passion trump caring, earnest friendship and a love that grows over time

There is much more.  Now, of course, many of these things I have never done and will never do, and certainly do not buy into at all.  But my perceptions of what “it should feel like”—that it should be passionate, that there should be thunder and lightning, that the spark is the key—these things are on my mind.  Sometimes at the forefront, sometimes on the back burner, but always there.  This question of who should chase whom—in theory, I’m all for equality, but in practice, I frequently find myself thinking some variation of…the guy should do it.. Why am I initiating? It should be him…if it’s not him, this is never going to work…etc.

The worst part about this whole thing is that on one level I know how unrealistic and unhealthy the relationships portrayed in popular media can be, I am well aware that everything you are exposed to affects you in some way so these things are undoubtedly shaping my thoughts and actions in some way, and yet, on the other hand, I find myself willingly consuming the mind pollution.  Developing the will and habit to resist the media junk food is a battle I haven’t quite won yet.

Feel free to share your own thoughts on how media has influenced you in the comments below.

**to view more art from Kimia Kline go to www.kimiakline.com**