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" Live out of your imagination

not your history "

Stephen R. Covey

Give Up Watching the News

June 26th, 2015

Until about the age of 45 I watched the 10pm TV news religiously every night. I thought it anchored me in ‘reality’ and gave me a sense of being connected to the world. But at a certain moment I felt I was caught in a recurring loop. The news wasn’t ‘new’ at all – it was ‘old’: it was always the same. We were always worried about the economy, always shocked by ‘man’s inhumanity to man’, the same appalling atrocities being enacted, sometimes here sometimes there. I felt as if each night I was re-watching material I had seen before. A friend started a newspaper ‘Positive News’ because she felt the same way, and every so often we have bought a bulk supply and sent them out in OBOD mailings.

I stopped watching or listening to the news each day from that moment all those years ago, and what a relief it has been! I might occasionally watch it on TV but this is no longer a habit – the illusion that it keeps me ‘informed’ has been dispelled.  I still sometimes check the BBC News webpage or look at attempts at analysis – such as the material on the amazing website thoughtmaybe.com.

I could explain more reasons for dropping the daily ‘News-fix’ of radio, TV or newspapers, and the benefits that have resulted, but instead have a look at Rolf Dobelli’s recent Guardian article which explains brilliantly why we should all consider reducing our news intake. I’ll give a few quotes from his article then a link to the whole piece:

“We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press. Watching an airplane crash on television is going to change your attitude toward that risk, regardless of its real probability. If you think you can compensate with the strength of your own inner contemplation, you are wrong. Bankers and economists – who have powerful incentives to compensate for news-borne hazards – have shown that they cannot. The only solution: cut yourself off from news consumption entirely.”

News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol).”

News increases cognitive errors. News feeds the mother of all cognitive errors: confirmation bias. In the words of Warren Buffett: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” News exacerbates this flaw.”

News inhibits thinking. Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers.”

News works like a drug. As stories develop, we want to know how they continue. With hundreds of arbitrary storylines in our heads, this craving is increasingly compelling and hard to ignore.”

“In the past few decades, the fortunate among us have recognised the hazards of living with an overabundance of food (obesity, diabetes) and have started to change our diets. But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind. Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be…”  Rolf Dobelli

Read the full article here.

10 Responses to “Give Up Watching the News”

  1. yes, like many, I did the same a # of years ago, too…and no longer have a TV, either – a great change also! However, I also ‘scan’ the news headlines now and then, partly as others ask re: certain issues, including environmental news and so on. However, these days, I think many would agree that it is primarily social media newsfeeds and certain posts, et al that are/can often be far negative than television news ever was.

  2. I agree that obessively watching the news and worrying can be a problem, but it is still important to know what is going on in the world, and what decisions politicians are making that affect our lives and that of the planet we all share. Cutting out news entirely seems to me like not voting: it doesn’t stop the bad stuff from happening, it just makes you powerless to react to it. I’d recommend reading it instead of watching it – less graphic imagery in print.

  3. I also gave up my daily news fix some ten or so years ago. The result? I feel less anxious, much less angry, and able to concentrate on getting life in order so that I may become a positive influence on my world (the only world I can truly influence). Nevertheless, I still occasionally dip in to the news in order to check out the state of things and, like a soap opera, the same story lines emerge, the same roles being played out, albeit by different people, and, generally a confirmation that those who are ‘in charge’ are pretty incompetent, impotent and really quite irrelevant.

  4. I too went through this process but it was newspapers that alerted me to the problem and what is frightening there is a lot of people still affected without realising what its doing to them. I rarely watch the news or read news papers. They frustrate, depress and manipulate your thoughts. Nothing has altered in my life except Ive become less rascist since Im not having all the news about immigration depressing me so looking for a scapegoat to relieve this depression on. I have also curtailed the infectious facebook as this was just as bad and more worrying a big communication point for Pagans, though it has some plus sides it also has some downsides on a personal level. I now limit my time spent there and have become more creative and getting on with my course work etc. I believe people fall into the trap of talking about their paths than actually doing. And ofcourse it feeds a few ego’s, which is not a good thing. Especially when you get so called grown ups enjoying the fact they have a number of people attacking another persons point of view simply because it makes them feel like somebody important. What a minefield! I like getting my news now by hearsay in passing and local news is more immediate to me. If its so big it needs to concern me I’ll get to hear.

  5. I went on a “news fast” many years ago, pretty much gave up TV altogether soon after and am much better off for it. I catch up on things on line or by listening to NPR (here in the U.S.) during my morning/evening commute. Even then I’ll have a music CD queued up to turn on when the politics gets to be too much.

  6. I did the same, have not watched tv or followed news for several years…tbe result is less negativity, less anguish. Of course I know what’s going on in the world, but what I learnt is how much of all that stuff our heads, eyes and ears were filled with affects our daily lives not one jot! Not knowing all that detail merely makes one lighter….

  7. I want to disagree vehemently, but I find I don’t, for entirely different reasons.
    I do want to argue definitions.
    If we’re talking about the usual 6pm “news” then yes, by all means do without it. Spoiler alert: In tonight’s news, a clown showed up at the mall today.
    “News” published by respectable outfits like NPR is good for more dispassionate information (although you still have to cut out all the editorials), the general knowledge of which is a responsibility of every voter in a republican society if we want to crowdsource solutions OR influence the crowd.
    While there are fallacies on both sides to point out, many of the arguments in this piece really come from the “Media, inc.” side of “news”, and need to be divorced from the idea of being informed, through some medium, in a quantity and quality amenable to the individual’s capacity. I would always counsel to beware the messenger, especially when it’s a corporation.
    I personally modulate intake based on anger levels. YMMV

  8. The news gives only one side of what is happening in the world, so really, it is giving viewers a distorted view of the world. So many wonderful things happen in the world, but that doesn’t sell.
    Thank you Phillip for pointing this out. I often put in earplugs when my partner is watching the news.

  9. I was under the impression that “pagans” strove to be environmentally aware and even socially aware. If I don’t follow the news in some format or other, how will I find out that someone is planning fracking under my soil or about to build a bypass through local ancient woodland? If I rely on others to tell me, then I’m simply letting them add yet another filter to what “news” does get through to me. It seems something of a defeatist attitude to cut off from all news sources altogether and yet it’s true that every news source has its own agenda to promote so, if I were to choose just one I felt comfortable with, the danger would be that I would be just reinforcing my own preferences (prejudices??) and, additionally, letting that source restrict my knowledge base. So, no, I’ll not cut myself off personally but I do constantly query the agenda behind the choice of “news” in the several sources that I consult.

  10. Totally agree — one needs to know how the world gets on for the sake of making responsible choices/activism, but “the news” is formatted to report mostly the most violent and sensationally catastrophic, and this concentrated horror soup is not good for the spiritual digestion!

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