If you have been watching the news recently, you are doubtless concerned, worried, and perhaps even frightened, by the terrible things going on. If you had been watching it last year, you would have been even more worried and frightened. Indeed, if you had been watching the news, five, ten or twenty years ago, you would almost certainly have had the same reaction.
The news, as brought to us by the media, is always predominantly bad. What little good news is presented is used almost like salt; to improve the flavor of the foul dish we have been served up.
The threat of impending war, the Middle East situation, roaming murderous pedophiles, floods and earthquakes. On and on and on it goes. Yet, is this really ALL that is going on in the world? Moreover, by paying so much attention to all of it, what are we doing to our own mental state?
My mother is a big watcher of the news. She follows every nuance of the Middle East situation, is concerned by what the Western powers are planning with their warlike remedies for Terrorism, knew every detail of the OJ Simpson trial, and so on. She sometimes confesses to being depressed and worried; perhaps because of all the bad things going on, and the helplessness she feels about it. My suggestion to her was simple. STOP watching it!
The news, as presented by the media, is not reality. It is not all that is going on. It is not even a small portion of what is happening. It is a carefully selected edit of reality, designed to sell newspapers and boost viewing figures. Bad news achieves all of this. Good news does not.
Here is a simple proof of this fact. Someone once started a newspaper that reported primarily good news. It went bust almost immediately. Hardly anybody bought it. It is a perverse quirk of human nature that people do not want good news. They want bad news. That is what they get, and the network ratings soar as a result. The more graphic and terrible the news, the more people will tune in to watch it. The more it can be incessantly churned with “expert analysis”, the more fascinated people get.
Yet, what does this constant digest of misery do to us individually and as a society?
It adds to our anxiety, fear and general dis-ease with ourselves and the world we live in. We come to regard the world as a predominantly dangerous, violent and scary place. It can even cause us to become desensitized to the pain and suffering of others. When we are shown, for the thousandth time, the starving human faces from the third world, we might be tempted to flick over to “The Simpsons” or “Ally McBeal” instead. After all, they are more entertaining, are they not?
None of this implies that we go through life with blinkers on. It simply means that we need to be much more conscious of what we are allowing to shape our consciousness. For instance, only a fool would remain completely oblivious to the terrible happenings of 11th September 2001. However, that does not mean you have to become a world expert on the matter, or absorb the same images and analysis countless dozens of times.
Much of what gets reported is not really “news” at all. It may sound rather brutal to say this, but the fact is that most murders, rapes, pedophile assaults, and many forms of vehicle accident are not really “news”. Why? They have been happening since human beings first became sentient, and will continue to happen until the day we all cease to be. Hence, why exactly do these events constitute news, why do we all need to be informed about them as a nation, and why do they continue to morbidly fascinate us?
Moreover, it gets worse when we are obliged to hear about dire events in countries where we have no connection whatsoever. We learn all the gory details about coaches crashing, child murders, people burning to death etc., in countries halfway around the world from us! WHY? If we do tune in with morbid fascination, and then go off and do nothing whatsoever to assist, are we not engaging in a sort of international nosiness? Are we not merely being entertained? If you find this thought offensive, ask yourself: what are you doing with this information?… If the answer is nothing, I rest my case.
Personal development trainer, Brian Tracy, said that one of the the best time saving techniques is to stop watching and reading the news. If anything truly important happens, you will get to hear about it eventually.
Often, I did not know what was going on in the world. Yet, I did not find myself lacking anything. If it was a lack, it was a refreshing one, as I found it easier to be more focused on the present; on the now. As ever, if something really important happened, I would hear about it directly or indirectly. However, being relieved of the incessant nitty-gritty morbid fascinations of the world news media was truly a refreshing experience.
There IS a lot of good news going on too, but you and I are not getting to hear much of it. Hence, we have to find our own by (a) being critical of what we are receiving through the media, and firmly deciding how much of it we attend to; and (b) finding out own sources of good news, be it directly in our lives or through suitable alternative media, e.g. magazines and/or the internet.
Just as many parents censor the daily dosage of sex and violence their children are receiving on TV, we need to do that to ourselves as well!
Each of us has enough problems and anxieties in our own lives, and in our own country, without being incessantly exposed to things we can do little or nothing about. This is not intended as a “head in the sand” approach to life. However, we do not need all this tidal wave of negativity we are being force-fed, and would be better off without most of it. Ultimately, each of us is responsible for the state of mind we enjoy, the world we choose to live in as a result, and the mental food we consume in order to create both.
Copyright Asoka Selvarajah. All Rights Reserved.