Mainstream news is like sugar for the brain. The more we consume, the weaker we become. So in order to preserve the well being of our mind, we need to reassess our news consumption habits.
If you are a regular follower of the news then you are not just wasting time, but injecting yourself with a slow poison. It is slowly killing you. Really slowly.
News channels are now obsessed with leading our minds astray. They portray individuals and institutions as unforgiving sinners leading everyone into a web of mistrust. News’s obsession with the minute-by-minute updates is leading us to be less reflective of our surroundings. We are fed with opinions from mindless anchors and news-persons alike, aggravating our many cognitive biases. Be it Amir Liaquat Hussain or Hamid Mir, or the Khara Sach by Mubashir Luqman, all of them are up to no good. Not to mention the damage all this is doing to the society and the creativity of individuals. We may claim that the news (or media) informs us and keeps us updated; in reality, we are just ignorant and still deluded as a nation. We have allowed ourselves to be slaves of these news channels. They are filling us up with gibberish stuff and we are chucking it all down.
News is Immaterial
Is any news on the channel making us smarter? Is it helping us in our relationships? Does it calm our senses? The answer to all these questions is No! Almost all the news we read or view is irrelevant to our lives. Half of all the problems highlighted by news channels are outside our circle of influence. This instils in us a sense of hopelessness and low self-esteem.
For the people of a nation injected with problems from its birth, the media is not doing any good or playing a positive role. Instead, it is fueling our helplessness by bombarding us with problems outside our locus of control.
According to research, those individuals who have external locus of control tend to have bad experiences with health, relationships, personal growth, and wealth as compared to those who have an internal locus of control. This is a high cost to bear for remaining informed.
News is a commercialized business
They are all here to mint money. Period. Their core strength lies in the fact that they all are now conglomerates. Profits and prestige is what determines the news that goes out. They are not devoted towards informing the public or giving any objective coverage. Headlines are carefully crafted to produce high ratings and have nothing to do with informing the public. Likes, page views, and new blogs content lead to greater advertising revenue, but are mostly irrelevant and inaccurate.
What is more interesting to note here is that the most severe criticisms hurled at the news industry have come from people belonging to it. This is what Nick Denton, founder of Gawker, commented about news nowadays:
“I learned the news business in the UK, in which newspaper political coverage is much like cable TV news in the US. Fake news, manufactured, hyped, rehashed, retracted – until at the end of the week you know no more than at the beginning. You really might as well wait for a weekly like the Economist to tell you what the net position is at the end of the week.”
News leads to Depression
During a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Medical School, it was found that chances of depression increased by 8% with each hour of television news watched. News leads to an increase in the release of cortisol, a chemical that deregulates the immune system and leads to a state of stress and fatigue.
It leads to observe the environment around us in a pessimistic way. We get addicted to negativity and start exhibiting cognitive errors in our daily lives. Our brains are “re-wired” to recall all the unpleasant events that have happened so far. The news, in fact, the media industry feeds off this. Now I know why psychologists advise depressed patients to “cut the cord” and shred the newspapers.
In the early days of news press, the newspaper industry used sensationalism to sell its newspapers. Newspaper’s role was seen to evoke the feelings of anger, anxiety, fear, or awe and all this led to an increase in the readership of the papers. This era was known as the “yellow press” and belonged to the early years of 20th century. During the late 1940’s, at the time when the half of the world was at war, sensationalism reached its peak and was used profoundly to startle the readers.
Change is the only constant in life. However, when it comes to sensationalism in the media industry, this notion does not hold true. Almost every aspect of news is sensationalized these days to grab viewer’s attention. You can easily categorize them in to five main categories, i.e. violence, tragedy, conflict, protests (dharna), and war/military affairs.
News nowadays is only an illusion and a distorted picture of reality that lacks all the elements of substantive information. Media channels now focus more on the emotional and tragic elements of every story that overlook the basic idea of what is actually happening. Events that inspire fear and panic in people are over emphasized with distorted data. In addition to over reporting such events that inspire fear and panic, the media overemphasizes such news by the way it twists the stories.
Beta journalism has created a culture that places more importance on being the first to publish rather than focusing on the truth, leading to dire consequences. In a study conducted in 2006 at the University of Michigan and Georgia State University, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler created fake newspaper articles about American politics and asked their subjects to read them. Half of the subjects were given articles with corrections at the bottom that discredited the central claim. As it turned out, once the subjects were exposed to the initial claim, they intended on holding on to the initial belief more confidently after reading the corrections. This effect is now termed as the “backfire effect,” which shows that corrections given after false initial claims backfire and make the misconception worse.
The News Detox
If you need happiness, then reduce the amount of news intake in your life. Go and read book about issues you care for the most, as they usually provide you with more knowledge than mainstream news. Un-subscribe to daily news alerts and replace the paper with weekly (or maybe monthly) magazines like the The Economist, Forbes, Business Week, or any other of your interests. You certainly do not need news apps on your smart-phones. This brings us to the TV. If you really want to detox yourself from the clutter of new channels, then cut TV out entirely. Rest assured, if some news is important enough for you to know, it would come to you either through digital media or through conversation.
I am not suggesting that we ignore the problems that are surrounding our world now, but I strongly believe that the constant bombardment of negative drones is not helping anyone. Change comes from within ourselves, and the first baby step towards change is realizing that we actually have a choice. The choice to either live happy with real knowledge or allow yourselves to be killed by the fear of being killed.
The world isn’t such a bad place at all as long as one didn’t read the daily newspapers. — Bill Aitken