You are what you watch…

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Shazia Gulzar

Like music is nourishment for soul, content is the food for mind and you are what you feed your system. Modern technology has changed our lives including our eating habits. Watching screen has become an “IT” norm in our society. A person who does not check his phone from time to time is considered a disconnected person in this connected world. Time spend on television is much less than spent on mobile phones or laptops. The quality of our content can affect our thinking in many important ways. It can influence our political preferences, societal values, and cognitive ability.
It leaves a lasting impact on our personalities. There are consequences to our abundant watching, particularly when the material being watched is mostly entertainment. The easy and the most vulnerable target of such mindless watching is our youth. They can easily be influenced and most of them imitate the personalities they admire effecting their behaviour and self-esteem. Depending on the content, it could leave a positive or a negative impression on their minds.
Looking at the two mega hits imported from Turkey presents a stark difference in the quality and morality of the content. The series aired on our national television was a great example of it. Everybody was onboard for Jihad. Ertugrul was our new Tipu Sultan and Halima Sultan was our new Malalai of Maiwand. On top of that, Turkey was the most favourite destination for many Pakistanis. In a way, it was a good thing that the show had a message of ethics, self-respect, and loyalty. The other import was “Ishq-i-Mamnoon” which showed a different morality. Ishq-i-Mamnoon focused on infidelity, sexual deviances, and greed. Both these shows garnered a lot of views, but they were significantly different from each other?? By morality standards. The harm seems to come not so much from the content itself but from the fact that it replaces more enlightening ways of spending time.
But what other choices do we have to entertain ourselves? The playgrounds have been turned into marriage halls, the parks are in shambles, sports clubs and gyms are afforded only by rich. Most of our females are confined to their homes. How would we distress ourselves from our daily routine? For most of us the television is the only escape from the reality. Media providers fight aggressively to seek our attention, and in this game, they have come up with all the bizarre concepts they can imagine. With the advent of streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Starzplay, binge-watching has become the new normal. But this new habit of watching hours of back-to-back television could take a toll especially on our morals. us. There is all sort of content there and you have the liberty to watch anything you want. The top 4 shows on Netflix trending in Pakistan are always related to soft porn shows.
Money Heist and Game of Thrones are among the most watched shows. Both were 18+ shows with little significant theme. Everyone who could access these streaming platforms were binge watching them. Our society, particularly our youth, is not educated enough to take sexual content lightly. The vacuum is further filled with apps like TikTok and Likee etc. The endless stream of nonsensical material on these apps often becomes an addiction and it’s difficult to break it. More and more people are inclining towards such streams to get popular and get more views as it has become a source of instant gratification for them. They find a way to entertain themselves as well as get some fame too. They are fun and creative outlets for users to post their content but it is often filled with explicit language and lewd gestures.
Recently the government has decided to put a ban on some of those platforms. Is banning the ultimate solution for everything? Our society is starved for entertainment and it would find other ways to please itself. It is human nature that if you restrict someone from something, he will undeniably do that thing. The responsibility lies only on us. In our solitude, no one is watching us, so we have the liberty to choose the content we want to see. Now here lies the challenging part. One needs to be powerful enough to say no to the evil. Many succumb to their desires but again we can be the change we want. Feed the brain with good nourishments and you will have a healthy mind, feed it with junk and you will think about junk all day long. Even after shutting down the medium, your brain tends to think about it making its imprint deeper on you. The new age proverb stays true for us as “you are what you watch”. So, choose wisely!
—The writer, based in Islamabad, holds master degree in Communication Science.

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