News Keeps You Informed, Right?
When I was a little tike, my dad thought the same thing, and he introduced me to the daily newspaper. I began with the comics (minus Doonesbury because I didn’t understand the humor) and the front page. Soon I was devouring the entire first section. By the time I finished high school, my daily habit included reading most of the daily newspaper, and I believed anyone not informed on the news was an ignoramus.
Fast forward to the present day and I have since given up the news completely. Funny how things have changed.
News Makes You Negative
A few months ago, I was having a breakfast with my friend Thomas and his new girlfriend Jane. It was an awkward meal because Jane had a pretty strong personality, complained quite a bit about the restaurant, and continuously chose to talk about the news for conversation. Many of her sentences resembled in one form or another: “Did you hear about …“, “It’s so awful“, “I can’t believe…“.
Out of curiosity, I asked her, “Do you read the news often?”
Her reply was, “Yes, I love the news. It’s an addiction. Every morning I read all The Toronto Star, The National Post, and The Globe and Mail. I like to keep up to date on current events.”
Constant news exposure can invade your subconscious, resulting in you complaining more, becoming more pessimistic, and being difficult to satisfy. If your news source is a biased publications, then you’ll easily become more opinionated on a subject, feel the need to be right (and others wrong) about your views, reinforce certain beliefs, and swallow points of views verbatim, no questions asked. Seriously, when is the last time any of us have read an Afghani or Iraqi newspaper?
Negative news sells. Good news just isn’t as interesting. The incredible damage and lives lost by an earthquake isn’t as interesting as the small heroic rescue and recovery efforts by individuals. Have you ever read good news? Unless a well-known philanthropist donates an eight figure sum of money to a charity, day to day good deeds we do for each other go unnoticed compared to the isolated bad things people do – yet good things happen all the time. We see it. We live it.
In Toronto, given the relatively low crime rate, the news feeds on the next best things – traffic accidents, house fires, and of course, the “neverending” cycle of bad weather. In the winter, we have the snowstorms, freezing rain, snow shovel, and the accidents. In the summer, the news shifts almost immediately to the heat, smog, humidity, and construction traffic. The weather is as it is – it’s only bad if you let it be.
News Makes you Fearful
The news makes you afraid of things you weren’t afraid of before, like killer monkeys or dirty toilet seats. Because the news delivers a heap of tragedy around the world to your door, you get a perception that the outside world is dangerous, when really, day to day, not much happens for over 99% of the world. I encourage you to travel and find out for yourself.
When the tsunami of 2004 hit, in the days following the disaster, “What to do in the event of a tsunami” stories plagued the media. We’re afraid of sharks because the news reports it when in fact, more people die from toilets than sharks. Don’t start eyeing your throne warily though. They’re perfectly safe. And clean.
But seriously, think about it. Even when there is no major news, there are reserve stories. Germs danger on public restaurant trays. Internet predators preying on your children. Potential flu outbreaks.
With information access at our fingertips these days, you can now look for things to be afraid of. As I left to travel around Peru last year, more than one person (who have never been there before) told me of dangers to watch out for, such as an earthquake that happened months before in a region I wasn’t visiting. Overfeeding yourself on danger reports will keep you locked up in your home.
Cruises and package vacations to Caribbean resorts make a killing because resorts offer the illusion of ultra-safety and most of all, isolation from most of the local population, who can be unpredictable. In my travels, I’ve interacted with locals on more than one occasion. I’ve even been lured away. Yikes. The results? An invitation to pray (to whatever religion or non-religion I chose) in a fantastic mosque. A memorable meal with a Peruvian family. A secret surf spot and a beach party.
News Makes You Bored
If the news isn’t particularly devastating, then it’s juicy. The personal lives of celebrities are constantly exploited in gossip tabloids, which sell better than regular newspapers. Why deal with your routine life when you can live vicariously through the scandals of other? I’m sure most celebrities live pretty normal lives, but when put under the glaring eye of the tabloids, a small blemish, a bad outfit, or some weight gain can’t escape public scrutiny. Really, it’s just normal lives re-written into epic tantalizing stories.
Boredom and fear are low frequency emotions. Because the news is so ubiquitous, it only serves to lower the collective consciousness of all people. If you suffer from some of the lowest frequency emotions such as depression or anxiety, then you definitely should avoid the news.
Fortunately, you can choose to be out of the loop. Trust me, you’ll get the news if you really need it. If it’s big or is something that impacts you, which it rarely is, you’ll either hear it from someone else or find out by your own means.
I’ve given up the news for a few years now, and it hasn’t changed much when I glance at the headlines – Turmoil in Iraq. A crime in some part of the city. A fire in some neighborhood. A corrupt politician. I’m not condoning apathety. I know some people who scan the news for , so that they can buy flowers for the victims.
Unless you plan on taking some action, then staying informed is not a good enough reason to subject yourself to such negativity. Do you really remember most of the articles you read?
Ready to give it up? Read Part 2 for more.