You wake up and the first thing you do is check your news feed from your favorite mainstream media outlet. You listen to the voices of presenters describe the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, or corruption in countries you’ve never been to, or how American corporations are behind the wholesale destruction of the environment.
And that’s just before you’ve had your cereal.
But aren’t we supposed to watch the news? Isn’t it what smart, switched-on people do?
Well, maybe not.
Consuming news every day from mainstream media is something so ingrained and automatic that many of us don’t even realize it. While nobody would suggest closing yourself off in a bubble, it does make sense to cut down on the news you watch, read or hear – or at least become more aware of its role in your life.
It’s making you less empathetic
If you walked down the street today and witnessed one man shoot another man dead before your eyes, you would probably be horrified and would go home shaking, probably replaying the event in your head over and over again.
But when you hear about the same thing happening to not just one man, but literally hundreds of thousands, your reaction is just “meh”.
Studies have shown time and again that when regularly faced with news of enormous scale tragedies, we simply stop caring, or even deliberately ignore them. Instead of news of this kind helping you be more compassionate and aware of your fellow man’s plight, they only seem kind of abstract and dehumanized to you. Worse still, you may end up reading with a detached sense of entertainment, or merely because you need to “be in the know”.
Kick the habit
- Consciously avoid the mainstream media outlets that dehumanize people
- Stay away from sensationalist news or pieces that seem designed to manipulate your emotions
- Tune in to the Reaper to get a dose of what’s really going on in the world – without the sensationalism
It’s making you depressed
When you read any news media, you’re working under the hidden assumption that what you are seeing is in some way reality. But even if what you view happens to be 100% true and accurate – it’s still not the whole picture. Because stories about ordinary people making reasonable decisions and being kind to one another aren’t exactly news for mainstream media, we actually erase positive information from our field of awareness.
So you hear about the vicious abuse of child factory workers in China, or about the hideous things terrorists did to a dog, and your thought may only be, “oh, business as usual.” Depressing, right?
Kick the habit
- Moderate your intake. Avoid making sweeping judgments about groups of people or humanity in general based on abstract news stories – don’t forget the real world right in front of you!
- Shift your focus away from disaster news, pessimistic war coverage or heavily biased political content. Turn towards more balanced and thoughtful analysis pieces, science or tech developments or relevant industry news.
It makes you lazy
Did your teacher encourage you to read the newspaper? We all pressure one another to behave like informed, concerned model citizens who “keep up to date” with the news.
The thing is, reading a newspaper means very little in the grand scheme of things, particularly with today’s mainstream media cartel.
Merely reading about the many ways other people are making choices about the very world you live in… well it’s not a good substitute for real participation. Scanning headlines, generating knee-jerk opinions and feeling that things are irreparably bad just paralyzes you.
Kick the habit
- Get into the habit of asking whether a piece of news is actually relevant to you. Can/should you do anything about it?
- Be honest – are you just gawking at tragedies for entertainment or consuming political rhetoric just because you feel like that’s what educated people do?
Of course, the world is a complex and sometimes supremely screwed up place. And you can’t put your head in the sand, either. But try going a few days without getting wrapped up in the mainstream media and see how you feel – you may find you can unplug occasionally and still be a perfectly well-informed, responsible citizen.