I have not intentionally watched the news on television in a long time. Initially this transition just happened organically, but then I eventually made an explicit call that I will not spend my time watching news on television. We live in an information and device filled world where the demand for our attention is high. Journalists or reporters under no fault of their own have resorted to going out in the world to try and find news that is so dramatic and captures our attention. News outlets, facing pressure from an endlessly multiplying array of competitors all zeroing in on the same stories have greater incentive than ever before to ramp up their coverage of scary, emotionally wrenching stories. The side effect of this is that most of the news reported on is negative (unemployment, corruption, accidents, natural disasters, murders, war, etc). Some studies done in the past found about 70% of news reports are negative.
Try it yourself, next time you are watching television. Switch to one of the news channels and take stock of the amount of negative content being pushed out. I struggle to find the times where after watching news, I learned something that I can apply and use to grow myself as an individual. I used to find myself rather surprised at how so many negative things can be happening in the world. It can leave you with very negative perceptions about a world which when balanced has a lot of good stories to tell too. Especially given that most of the negative stories reported, there is not much you can do about them as an individual. Leaving you in a state of learned helplessness. I am not saying negative news should not be reported, however I feel there is a gross imbalance on the scale, mainly weighted toward the negative reports.
One may argue that watching the news allows you to learn about the important things happening around the world. This is valid, and it is important to understand the world we live in and what is happening around us. I have found the important news tends to manifest itself through other channels in any case. At work water-cooler or lunch lime conversations with colleagues, or over a night out with friends or family for example.
So I prefer to spend my time consuming constructive media that I select for myself, media that is educational and informative that I can apply in my life so I can grow. This often comes in the form of books and podcasts. This is a choice I have made, and the media you choose to consume is your own choice, we have this freedom.
Do yourself a favor, next time you watch news on television, take note of the number of negative stories being reported, or more importantly after watching a news broadcast for 30 minutes to an hour take note how much value it has added to your life.
Of course, it’s both unrealistic and undesirable to construct bubbles that keep out the world’s bad news. But there’s a difference between being informed and being obsessive, and it’s a line that’s very easy to accidentally slide across in an age when there’s so much scary information zipping around. In the mean time, I have decided to just turn the news off.