What Did I Watch and What Did It Teach Me?

I want to start checking in what media I watch/play. Almost in the same way I might log calories or track moods.


check in

We watch/play media without really thinking about why.

We spend dozens of our leisure hours every week interacting with media, soaking up stories; recovering and learning. It’s in our best interest to learn how to maximize what we’ve been quietly (unknowingly) learning from media by practicing media mindfulness.

According to Slater, Ewoldsen, and Woods (2017) in their research article, Extending Conceptualization and Measurement of Narrative Engagement After-the-Fact, “much involvement with a story world and narrative characters may occur retrospectively and imaginatively” (p. 329). Their research explored the relationship between viewer and media narratives after initial viewing; how we absorb stories and relate to their messages when we’re thinking about them later on. Their research “demonstrate(d) predictive validity with respect to a measure of self-reported effects of narratives on beliefs and behavior”(p. 329). They found that the thought we give media after watching/playing can influence how we see the world or how we behave.

When we watch or play something we learn new perspectives and get important practice with unfamiliar emotions on the spot, but our relationship with media continues after we turn off our screens. In the days and weeks following a meaningful media-interaction we digest what we saw, what we felt, and how it applies to our personal lives. The power of stories to influence our sense of identity, mental well-being, and vision of the future is significant.

I want to help move the conversation of how to use media to strengthen emotional intelligence. This requires media mindfulness: being aware of personal media habits. So, I am trying to develop a set of reliable “check-in” questions that can help myself (and others, hopefully) actively investigate how their media choices have influenced them and their current mindset. Answering these questions should, hopefully, help us learn more about ourselves, reinforce important realizations, and better equip us to navigate our emotional lives with more ease. 

These questions should guide the writer to describe what they learned about themselves when engaged with meaningful media. The more the writer writes the deeper the investigation and the more helpful the results of their self-exploration.

Let’s start with one piece of media and four simple questions for the first version of this.

Check-In – Week of August 24th, 2018.

  1. This past week, the most meaningful thing(s) I watched/played was/were:

    – P.S. I Love You (2007)


  2. Why did you pick it?

    It was picked for me by some friends who could NOT believe I hadn’t seen it before. They sat me down to watch some of it and I liked it enough to finish watching it on my own. I didn’t pick it myself so there’s no significant data for my “selection” habits.

  3. How was its themes meaningful to your personal life and unique experiences?

    – Briefly, I find I like romantic films lately. I appreciate seeing couples behave somewhat realistically in films, even if just for one or two scenes. I appreciate seeing couples acting realistically: ridiculously and childishly, making compromises and swallowing pride. It inspires me to contemplate the complex (difficult and fun) nature of companionship. In the moment, I can practice mindfulness of and gratitude for my own relationship.

    – I have personal experience with losing a loved one. I felt comforted by the movie’s portrayal of the grieving process. It helped me think back to who I was immediately following my loss. I have grown a lot since then and revisiting the person I was is always interesting for me. Who I was gave me the life I have today. Contemplating the tragedy of losing a loved one, now that time has passed, helped me revisit my grief without significant pain. Instead, I experienced a pleasant vindication that my intense pain and strange thoughts were normal and acceptable. (a la “Contemplating Tragedy Raises Gratifications and Fosters Self-Acceptance”, Khoo [2016])

    – Watching the main character slowly build herself up again reminded me of my difficult journey and my growth as a person. Again, seeing the slow and confusing process of redefining yourself after life-changing loss portrayed as meaningful and compelling helped me appreciate my own confusing journey as meaningful and compelling.

    – Her erratic behavior and personal struggle with regret and repression mirrored some of my own experiences. I felt similarly lost in some periods of my life; not knowing what to do for a career, not knowing how to make solid connections with others, and feeling anxious about intimacy. Again, I felt vindicated that I wasn’t unforgivably strange or stunted.

    – The resilient nature of the character’s story reinforced my personal belief that grief is not terminally painful. As I slipped into the main character’s shoes, I felt reassured by its redemptive tone (helping me avoid falling into “contamination” thinking [McAdams et. al, 2001]). The conclusion of the film strengthened my perspective that life after loss is not only possible, but made richer by the lessons we learn from loss.

  4.  Do you feel your mood/mindset improved with this media encounter?

    Yes, I felt my confidence and self-acceptance had been boosted. I have found myself thinking back to the movie a few moments a day since watching it. When it comes to mind I feel my positive, redemptive perspectives are reinforced.
    I also feel my mood boosted and mindset reinforced by writing these contemplations out and sharing them.

So, we’ll see how these check-ins go. The questions will be evolving as I figure out better phrasings and appropriate frequency.

For now, these check-ins, I hope, will also serve to share with others a personal account of the benefits of practicing media mindfulness.

Thank you for reading!

This blog, Screen Therapy, is dedicated to exploring how we can mindfully use the time we already spend on games and movies to strengthen our emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is crucial when we face the everyday stresses and anxieties we all endure (such as the fear of death, how to develop the skills for loving relationships, or learning how to cope with just how difficult life feels, etc.)

We receive very little formal education or help in processing these difficult challenges, but by strengthening our self-knowledge and emotional intelligence through art and culture we can better pursue our personal balance.

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