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The Visual Diet and its real impact on mental health

28th October, 2019

Or how the images we consume affect our perception of the world.

Imagery can we a very powerful thing, for the better or for the worse. It is just like the food we eat on daily basis. We can make the right choices, go to a bio food market, shop organically, research about the source of our meat and veggies, and fill our plate with something that will be nutritious and delicious. Or, we can just take the easy way, take some frozen pizza, chips, cheese and cookies, and don’t even touch the kitchen with the excuse that ‘we are too tired and we just don’t have time’.

But we do have time. On a 2018 research, Global Web Index determined that an average social media user spends arounds 2 hours and 22 minutes per day scrolling the screen. We quickly realise that the internet and social media are our main sources of content consumption today. And often, we have no limits as for how much we consume through them.

In a supermarket, you know you have a limited budget for your weekly groceries. You know which food categories you should be buying more often than others, and even if the junk food and sweets aisle are tempting, you know that it won’t be good for your health on the long-term. The thing is, with social media, people don’t even give it a second thought.

Some contents are healthy and nutritious for our mind: motivational accounts, girls that share their experience to a more healthy lifestyle, fitness coaches with a taste for fashion, fashion girls that actually share useful tips for looking good without spending thousands of euros, artistic accounts, young musicians with crazy talent, and the list goes on. For me, these is healthy content: things that will motivate you to do an improvement in your life, and that will make you feel good about yourself.

On the other hand, trans-fat and sugars in regular diet can be translated into empty content in social media. Hyper retouched and unrealistic pictures that will actually affect the minds of certain people, making them think that they will never be able to have access to this lifestyle. Or that they will never have those abs. Or that they will never have a super hot partner. Or anything that causes frustration and affects the self-esteem.

In her seminal book On Photography, published in 1977, Susan Sontag wrote: “Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution.”

Roll on four decades from Sontag’s insights and here we are: conditioned by white-sand beaches, neon feeds and “likes”. We crave cyber-appreciation like sugar addicts. And we need to learn how to consume healthy content, just as we aim to eat clean food.

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