Health is everywhere, you see it in magazines on TV, in books, friends talk about it and they go on and on about being thinner, living longer and feeling younger. What I see much less, however, is any discussion about mental health. Not only do we not talk about it, we (in the west, at least) have a lifestyle which is not very conducive to having a healthy mind – nor is it set up for a physically healthy lifestyle I also may add. We are surrounded by ‘Anti-Boredom Simulators’. And that is a problem.
What is an Anti-Boredom Simulator?
An Anti-Boredom Simulator is a form of media specifically designed to convince you that you are not bored, making you think you’re gaining something when you are not. Making you think you will be worse off without it. Basically playing on your fears and insecurities.
This is very much in the same vein as fast food, which has very little nutritional value (shocker). There isn’t much nutritional value but there are a lot of ingredients you wouldn’t find in a vegetable patch*. Such food goes into your stomach and tells your brain ‘I am full! – thanks for feeding me!’, but what your stomach doesn’t yet realise is that, although you are ‘full’, you are full of nothing. There is no value, its sugar, it’s fat, its hydrogenated nothing.
‘But it tastes so good!’
Your brain definitely tells you it tastes good! “it tastes so good!” – see it just told you. Just the same way peoples brains will tell them they need another cigarette. These foods are designed to push buttons, to get you addicted and to consume more. Just like any other drug.
What has this all got to do with Anti-Boredom Simulators?
Like most things in life, all these things come down to money. The fast food chains want to make more money to appease shareholders and investors. This is no different from the TV networks and movie producers – the publicly listed ones at least. The more you consume, the more money they make. It’s a simple equation. Fast food companies do it through food sales, TV companies do it through advertising.
It probably comes as no surprise then, that this method of button pushing is also in practice in the media industry. In the same way, food scientists understand what ingredients make your taste buds and brain tick, media moguls employ psychologists to see what makes you tick*.
TV shows have a pattern and movies have a pattern. They follow these patterns designed by psychologists because they push buttons to make you want more. Even if you are aware your buttons are being pushed, they’re so well done, it still works. Let’s take the UK version of the X-Factor for instance. The X-Factor is a long-running talent panel show with millions of viewers. The format has been sold to many countries around the world, which is why I probably don’t need to explain it.
The ingredients found in
the X-factor every Anti-Boredom Simulator in the world, are:
E-Pilepsy 8.7g (23.1%)
This is the style of editing, which is fast and frenetic, with fast panning, bright lights and screen flashing usually intertwined with loud music. So much information is thrown at your face in a short space of time, you become a cross between Blanka in the 1994 street fighter movie and an aggressive telesales person – ‘Vote, vote, call to vote! Vote now!’
Bicarbonatum Tinitus 2.1g (6.9%)
Overly loud, fast-changing music. Often overladen with ‘swooshing’ sounds amongst other sound effects. Hearing protection is recommended.
Yellow MSG 87Kj
A requirement to play Coldplay songs during the sad bit. This is your cue to feel emotional. Not to be confused with ‘Phanto-Theatrum’ (see below).
A dollop of emotion so thick it would feel like you’re drowning in a bath of treacle, slowly consumed to the point where you must give in, and become at one with the treacle. It’s ok to cry, she’s 9 years old and singing John Mayers ‘Daughters’ for her Dad, who died before she was even conceived.
Posphorate G-Obsmack D 29.1g (41%)
Character decisions which cause shock and produce audible gasps so great global oxygen consumption spikes for 0.73 seconds.
Folic C-liff Hang R 14.58g (29%)
No show can end by concluding anything in particular. Tension must rise, confusion must rain, drama will prevail. You are now under their control. Hand over your time card, sign on the dotted line, you are now in the possession of Syco Entertainment Thames Plc.
Joking aside, these types of shows are designed purely with the aim of keeping your attention, in order to show you more advertisements. If you hear yourself say ‘the show wasn’t that good this week but I want to find out what happens with..’ or ‘It’s awful but I can’t stop watching’ you know its too late.
And Voilá your brain now thinks you are entertained. But there’s no value, no nutrition for the brain. It’s on autopilot. The lights are on but you may as well be in an alternative universe. People say if they invented a machine which put you into a dream-like state to live out the ‘perfect’ life, with all of your fantasies, which were never real, would you do it? Most people answer no to this question*.
This can’t be true, as it’s clear to see that people would happily live in a dream like state for far less than their own fantasies. They are willing to enter a dream like state, for something which is so fluffy and valueless it could be a pollinating Dandelion in the wind. Then be interrupted every 13 minutes for 6 minutes of advertisements.
Anti-Boredom Simulators are the fast food of media. They will convince you that you are full, they will make you want more, and you will consume more. But there can be no surprises when you are sat on a couch, 30 years later, unhealthy, overweight, and have latent mental health issues. You have seen so many beautiful people you will never be satisfied with your self, you have seen so many happy people on advertisements you wonder why you don’t see as happy. You will have seen so many happy couples you will wonder why your relationship doesn’t seem as good. You will have an unhealthy mind.
I am 99% convinced people will be mentally healthier, happier and find more enjoyment out of life, if Anti-Boredom simulators were not in their lives (and fast food). I’ll confirm the final 1% shortly, but the next series of Americas Got Talent is starting and the magician lost his rabbit in the last episode, and this week I will find out if the judges will give him a second chance. I hope so, he used to be a double act with his brother, but his brother died in a car accident. Cut in half, ironically.
*Propylene Glycol, Sodium Nitrite, Silicon Dioxide, Ammonium Sulfate, Cellulose, Mechanically Separated Meat, Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, Monosodium Glutamate, Dimetylpolysiloxane, L-Cysteine.. (the list goes on)
*Probably not true.
*I don’t know who they are.