Watching Netflix’s The Social Dilemma was interesting and disturbing. It was interesting to see how it was constructed but disturbing to see that many of the psychological techniques the documentary vilified were used by the producers to tell their own story. As a persuasive piece of media, it is very successful: Part documentary, part drama, it hits all the anxiety triggers of the last few years. The content is compelling and frightening — and also one-sided. The issues raised are serious and important, but not new. The call to action is to put down your smartphone and back away, not…

Source: Shutterstock

All you parents should assume that, at some point, your child will come across something inappropriate online, such as porn or violence, and that can be upsetting or scary. Younger children are more likely to have this happen by accident. Older children may be curious. Just like the Playboy Magazines hidden under the beds of teens in prehistoric times, tweens and teens will have heard about all the “horrors” of the Internet and may want to see what all the excitement is about. Don’t wait for something to happen to give a child some tools for dealing with it.


Photo by Alexandra Gorn/Unsplash

These have been anxious times. In May 2019, I told VOX that a concern with crime reflected the general level of discord and comfort societally. Here we are more than two years later dealing with the aftermath of a contentious election, months of social isolation, kids homeschooling, the politicization of masks and vaccines, and slow and unsteady movement to reengagement — not to mention the trauma for those who suffered personal loss. With all these things to worry about, did our concerns over crime and other bad things rise? Did we feel compelled to download the Citizen app or buy…

Image: Kathy SC/Shutterstock

Media can be a wonderful escape into another world. Period dramas, in particular, can be a satisfying form of “self-care” and you don’t have to be a huge fan to reap the psychological benefits.

  • Fiction lets us escape the stress of our current reality and explore new worlds
  • Our brains are soothed by pattern in stories
  • Period dramas engage and satisfy us with archetypal characters, rich visuals, and social intrigue
  • Connections to characters let us try on new identities and explore new ways of being

Entertainment as Stress Management

We learned a lot of things during the stress and uncertainty of 2020, including that…

Photo by Erin Kwon/Unsplash


  • Clubhouse is the ‘app dujour.’ A throwback, it is audio-only for drop-in discussions, serendipitous meetings, and eavesdropping without shame.
  • Invitation- and IOS-only, exclusivity, celebrity, and FOMO fuel its appeal; voice transmits emotion without the distraction of video, creating a sense of intimacy.
  • Popular with marketers and Influencers, there is a heavy undercurrent of purposeful audience building for monetization.
  • Wherever there are Influencers, brands will follow, but so far, they haven’t figured out how to capitalize on the all-audio format.
  • Topics range from business strategies, global wellness, and individual empowerment self-help to inspiration. …

  • Social media fame is more fragile and less likely to endure than the celebrity of actors and musicians.
  • Influencers’ success relies less on their content and more on maintaining an emotional connection with their fans.
  • Fans are fickle at the best of times. Generalized COVID anxiety and hypersensitivity to social issues make fans more reactive than ever to influencers behaving offensively.
  • Brands can’t afford to maintain a relationship with an influencer whose behavior violates consumers’ values. The loss of trust is sticky and expensive for brands.

Many successful people will tell you that fame is illusory at best. That doesn’t…

Photo: Shutterstock

Almost all good parenting advice starts with communication. Here are some tips to help guide your conversation when it comes to tackling cancel culture.

The first step in any hard conversation is to be a detective. Before you share your ideas and concerns, if you find out what the other person thinks, you will have a much more successful talk and be more likely to be heard yourself. You have to know what kids think and believe before you can provide any guidance. Their view and priorities are unlikely to be the same as yours. You want them to grow…

Illustration: Visual Generation/Shutterstock

Don’t agree with them? Find them offensive? Don’t like them? Cancel them!

Cancel culture — publicly ‘canceling’ or calling out someone for words or actions that you find offensive, disagree with, or just plain don’t like — is everywhere. It can be simple finger-pointing or a coordinated demand for retribution for alleged transgressions, urging the audience to join in and add their voice to hasten the severe penalties of social ostracization. It started as a means of social change, a way of speaking individual truths to positions of power. But where it was once focused on authority figures, public humiliation and shaming have become the ‘go-to’ means of voicing disapproval, real or…

Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

TikTok is the current app parents love to hate. A mobile app that allows users to create and share short videos, it was the most downloaded app of 2020. TikTok challenges continue to fill the news alongside reports of the big bucks that young TikTok stars are pulling down from endorsement deals — both of which terrify parents.

As the name suggests, a TikTok challenge asks or “challenges” the viewer to take some action and record it for sharing on TikTok. Challenges are found using hashtag searches and typically start from trending TikTok videos based on songs, dance moves, movie…

Using entertainment for comfort, escape, and positivity can be an important antidote to COVID stress and Zoom fatigue. Holiday movies are a reliable and popular choice. Media companies have noticed, and some have upped their investment in holiday “feel good” movies. For example, according to the LA Times, Mar Visa entertainment has gone from investing about 10% of its development funds in holiday movies to about 50%. Why? Holiday movies make us happy.

Psychologists talk about happiness by distinguishing between two types: hedonic and eudaimonic. Hedonic happiness is what we feel from sensations of pleasure and enjoyment. It tends to…

Dr. Pamela Rutledge

Pamela Rutledge is a media psychologist, prof, writer, researcher & consultant, looking for the ‘why’ that drives media consumption, meaning & impact.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store