By Samantha Moore
In an age where technology is ubiquitous and stress is at an all time high, media has become a sort of crutch for our generation. If we’re going through a break-up and feel like crying, we might choose One Tree Hill. If we’re stressed and want to mindlessly enjoy a show we might watch Friends or How I Met Your Mother. If we’re in the mood to laugh we might watch New Girl or Big Bang Theory. We unconsciously choose certain shows to feel a certain way, according to Zillmann’s theory of Mood Management. We have a homeostasis that is not only physiological but psychological as well: “Given the ubiquitous availability of a plethora of media offerings, today stimulus rearrangement is more easily available than ever before. According to mood management theory, we learn to navigate this stimulus environment in a way that best suits our hedonic needs through operant learning” (Zillmann). We choose media based on its hedonic valence, which is the direction of emotion the media provides us. For example, we might choose Friends for its positive hedonic valence if we are unconsciously trying to boost our positive affect. We might choose something sadder, like Downton Abbey, if we are trying to purposely experience a negative affect. The media we choose has intervention potential, meaning the ability to disrupt negative thoughts and distract us from our current mood or train of thought. Studies have shown that when an individual is in a stressful situation and is prompted to choose media, they will choose something relaxing and peaceful to create a passive and non-stimulatory experience. If an individual is bored, they are likely to choose media that is highly stimulating and is positively excitatory. Whether or not it seems like it, every time you open Netflix and put on the latest show you’re watching, you are maintaining homeostasis by managing your mood.