When I was at uni, I took an Aesthetics class. The Philosophy of Art. I don’t remember much from that course except for a couple of essays on Plato and Tolstoy.
Plato was keen that when educating the young men of his Republic that their art be censored and that the youth should only consume art that promoted nobility. So poetry shouldn’t be about loucheness and hedonism, rather they should be about promoting bravery in battle and moral uprightness.
I was reminded of this recently after binge watching a series of Mindhunter on Netflix, a show about the FBI’s profiling of serial killers in the 1970s. This is show that goes deep into the minds and motivations of deeply disturbed people, and it’s very entertaining and very compelling. We watched this off the back of Unabomber, another Netflix show, this time about the hunt for another serial killer, Ted Kaczynski. Again very entertaining and compelling.
The question I had was: “is this type of show good for me? Is it making me a better human?”
You might say “lighten up mate, it’s just a show”.
But is it just a show? Say that you watch 2 of these series. That’s nearly 20 hours of dark subject matter. Are we really saying that this has no effect on your brain, on your neural pathways? By exposing yourself to the fetishes of psychopaths, is your own mind becoming corrupted or infected? What are you consuming to offset this? What positive, elevating content are you consuming to counteract this negativity?
Let’s look at what Plato might recommend for our viewing consumption.
Say you watch one hour of TV a day after work. Instead of Netflix, imagine that for one month you watched TED Talks. A TED Talk is around 15 mins, so that’s 4 TED Talks a day. That’s 120 TED Talks a month. How much more elevated do you think you’d be on this diet as opposed to on just consuming Netflix?
We can do the same with our other channels of consumption. Take Instagram. If you wanted to lose weight, replace the photos of burgers and huge pizzas with buddha bowls and salads. Make your feed one that is congruent with your overall goals.
Maybe Plato was right. Censor what you consume for the better.