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Avoid the news. Friday May 31, 2013

We live in a culture obsessed by news. But is it really good for us to be constantly exposed to world news 24/7?

Studies show that it's generally not a great idea, which isn't really surprising when you think about it.

Mankind spent many, many more years (thousands of them) living in small communities of a few hundred at the most, receiving news from a geographical area with a radius of, say, five to ten miles. That's the level of news we are designed to cope with. When an event occurs the news is immediate and we can respond in a meaningful manner.

When terrible things happen on the other side of the world, we generally feel powerless. We may be able to contribute funds to help, but we can't really do anything. It's not a particularly positive place to be.

The feeling is even more acute if we are exposed to visual content. For the past couple of years I have made a point of avoiding the news if I can and never watching it on TV. If something important happens, I reason, someone will let me know. But the last time a neighbour rushed round with a "have you heard…?" it was regarding a neighbour who had broken her leg. Now that was something I could take action on. I could visit and take her flowers. I could offer to help.

We need to take responsibility for our wellbeing, and often, being well-informed is counterproductive to that wellbeing. Is the price too high to pay?

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Anonymous Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 7:40am

It could also be that as our 'normal'relationship to most 'NEWS'
is powerlessness - we forget to even try to be of assistance to anybody except the closest of our friends /relations. This may partly explain the "break-down" of our
Society ?

Victoire Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 8:11am

Much of this post resonates with me, esp latterly when the news has felt so relentlessly bleak. With recent events in London, I found the images I'd seen on the internet haunting me, and couldn't get them out of my head. I realised that I often "check" headlines regularly through the day, and this is more part of an addictive compulsion than actual need to know. Since then I've tried to cut down, but it takes an intention. How quickly one can click on the News button on a website. So I have to keep noticing my own behaviour and questioning it. Do I need to do this now? What is it I need to know? Will it be helpful? However, I do find the balance b/w a news blackout and 24/7 coverage. Personally I think its important to know whats going on in the world, as to cut oneself off feels not right somehow. So maybe its a matter of finding that fine line between the fear that drives a total blackout, and the more detached position of perhaps hearing the news once a day (radio less intrusive than TV/internet?). I'd be curious to hear what others say about this as its been an ongoing issue for me. But I do agree with the post today about the "powerlessness" of drip-drip news, compared to news of a neighbour. Yet for those poorer, more troubled places in the world, if the rest of us all cut off due to our powerlessness, they'd be all but abandoned? Tricky....

Julia Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 8:54am

This is such a timely blog for me as I have been seriously considering reducing the amount of news I expose myself to. When I'm in the UK I read a newspaper every day from cover to cover and some weeks when I'm on my own I will spend many hours reading all the Sunday papers plus the daily editions. This in addition to TV news, internet and radio. I often feel quite stuffed with news and almost bored with it all and yes powerless.But I have a need to be well informed and sometimes think it's because in company if I can comment knowledgeably on what is happening in the world of business, politics, showbiz you name it, it will make up for my lack of joie de vivre. At least I will have something to say! But I notice both our children and many other people often don't know in any detail what is happening in the world apart from injustices and environmental issues and they seem very happy; they just brush it off if they are not aware of a particular news item.
There's also the thing about how the news is presented to us, bias the amount of sheer gloom that makes the headlines. (Don't get me started!)I agree with Mary and Victoire on this. For the sake of our own sanity, peace of mind etc, a diet of constant gloomy news and dire warnings about impending economic downturns, murders and wars cannot be good for us; but we should make time for some news so that our thinking is not too insular and we can appreciate how well off we are in our society compared with other parts of the world.
Such a great blog Mary.

Victoire Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 9:27am

completely agree with you Julia about the dangers of becoming too insular, as you say, we are so well off here and often take it for granted (or I do anyway).

Julia Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 10:21am

This is so true. Someone once posted a YouTube clip about the break down of society because of this and how an alternative view of connecting to each other would produce peace. I'll try to find it. It was a series of animated line drawings.

fionaran Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 11:04am

I would not cut off from news content altogether, because insulating oneself from generally bad news is not being in the real world either. Participation and involvement begins with one's own life and that needs to be meaningful and grounded. I agree 24 hours news interest is too much, but interest in news as part of life makes one a citizen of the world.We also feel less powerless if we join with others in political parties and campaigns.

The Beachfeather Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 11:29am

I gave up the habit of following the news (notice the word following rather than being self determined and a leader) many years ago now; it’s been a good choice for my life and well being. I usually get to find out very top level and sometimes local news just by hearing conversations. Quite simply, I’m so sensitive, that even one episode of news can trigger a short period of depression for me. (I'm a HSP - highly sensitive person, and am challenged with the black dog of depression) Like Victoire, I too can feel haunted by the shock of being unable to comprehend so much of what is reported in the news. But I’m finding a better way to be with it, which I’d like to share with you. I’m not someone who usually responds to blogs but I felt moved to as it’s such an important post, thank you Mary and bloggers.
Firstly, I think the fact that so many people feel it's good to know about world trends as well as local ones and I feel that is necessary in order to make sense of and understand how things are working out with the issues I care about ie) human rights. (that’s everyone) I must point out, that as I see it, and from a meta physical understanding, news, politics and intellectual dialect are not the highest level that things occur or can be understood at in our world; there are bigger picture perspectives available for example from a spiritual dimensions (I'm a practical spiritual Buddhist, rather than new age crazy type) so I find it helpful to view things from that perspective. If you have faith, I’m guessing this gives you sense and reason and hope in a world that appears to have gone mad. I believe that a normal response to the state of the world is to go a bit mad, seriously. The World Health organisation predicts that by 2020, depression will be the no one disease, no surprise when you consider the state of the world and out belief that we are largely helpless in it. It is at its worst and we are causing that at many levels, yet are somewhat (although not entirely) powerless. If anyone doubts we are causing it, just look at wealth distribution globally – if you have running water, you are better off than 80% of people, or envoironment change and species dying off ie) bees!, and no 4 seasons any more in the uk etc... Remember, 'silence is consent' - so even doing something small all counts and helps. As Ghandi said, 'you are either part of the problem or part of the solution' no guilt needed here. I just do what I can, a little more each year as I look back. I use the news to inspire me to do a little more and leave the rest.

second part to follow... as size is limited

The Beachfeather Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 11:31am

......and thanks for your patience, told you i'm not sued to blogging. sorry!

I feel strongly that we are able and actually responsible for the whole of our world, not just our own back yard, so I’m afraid that whilst I liked the majority of your article Mary, on that point, I disagree with you, sorry. When you say we are only designed to cope with a small radius of news. I like to think the human is more evolved than that these days and has a higher consciousness which extends to a global responsibility. With the advent of the internet, it really is a small world. And surely, if the better off can't or won't help the worse off, who on earth will?! Even Einstein said a problem can't be solved at the level at which it was created. What I personally find most useful in aiming for the balance of self preservation (not distressing myself with news) and being a responsible caring world citizen, is to do various works through charities and campaigning activities such as 38 degrees, and Avvaz. It’s the only reason I keep a facebook account, to publish news I want to do something about. I used to do what I could with my local Amnesty International group for many years but found it too distressing in the end. I used to organise events and do fundraising and offer my management consultancy skills to regional events, but it became increasingly difficult to be involved without knowing about a certain degree detail about so many atrocities, which I would often drive home crying about. These days, I’m a Trustee of a local charity and whenever I feel overwhelmed with my own lot, I remind myself of the aims of the charity and those less fortunate we help and it gently shifts things into perspective and enables me to give more without costing too much to my well being because I’m acting mindfully rather than addictively, as I so easily can.
Finally, there are positive news papers such as Positive News, TED talks on you tube, and many others but they are not well subscribed, why not try those? I quite spend a few hours researching latest developments on topic I care about rather than being force fed by the media. (Anyway, the newspaper pulp gets stuck in your teeth) Why not be a leader in your own world to feel less powerless and be more powerful, effective human being in the wider world – I believe that is what we all want deep down? Surely the purpose of news is in order for us to be able to do something with it, not merely allow ourselves to be immobilised spectators of life, overwhelmed , saturated and brain washed with negativity, and politically biased, sponsor controlled so called news, where celebrity/football/gossip is the new religion and most valued career, not to mention an obsession with voyeurism over others personal business and miss-fortune? Take your responsibility, power and control back. News only sells on the basis of supply and demand. It starts with you as a consumer. That's how we change the world, by starting with ourselves, one choice at a time. You are more powerful than you know. And in light of that fact, maybe the world is not such a bad place. That is the good news

DrPaprika Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 11:38am

I don't agree with this, on the whole, but I can empathise with the points of view. My view is summed up in John Donne's seventeenth-century poem, 'No Man is an Island.' For better or worse, we now live in a Global Village, and neither the Prague Spring nor the fall of the Berlin Wall would have happened without the advent of TV and satellite broadcasting. Similarly, the Arab Spring came about as a direct result of the impact of new media. My own life, with its highs and lows has been intimately affected by international news, both good or bad. There may be times when its best not to look, or listen to the radio, which has always been my way of keeping up-to-date. Only ostriches stick their whole heads, including eyes, ears and brains in the sand, and I'm not sure it does them much good either. We also underestimate how far and fast news travelled in the ancient world. You may think we would be better off without apostles and missionaries having taken the good news 'to the ends of the earth', according to the commandment of Jesus Christ, but many would disagree, including many secular historians as well as church historians like myself.

Anonymous Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 1:06pm

Really well said. No wonder my journalism sons tell me to quit having CNN on continuously. Makes sense just hadn't thought about it.

Caroline Ashcroft Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 1:36pm

I agree with Mary to a certain extent. I feel helpless when I hear of all the awful things going on in the world and saddened that human beings can be so awful to each other. Whatever happened to the good news?

Julia Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 2:11pm

I have just read your two posts Beachfeather. There is so much of interest in them. I love the Ghandi quote."you are either part of the problem or part of the solution"

Anonymous Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 2:47pm

I agree. I, too, have avoided watching news for years now. Nothing good ever came from watching news. I'm negatively affected by bad news long after I learn about it.

Anonymous Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 3:11pm

I agree with all the posts which favour having a balanced view about this. There are times when the news is downright depressing, shocking or sometimes puerile and sensationalist. Some journalists, even at the BEEB or in the quality broadsheets sometimes have a lot to answer for. And if I'm feeling down the news can seem just like yet more evidence of how awful life is, and further evidence of man's inhumanity to man. But having said that I think it's important to "bear witness" to what is happening in the world or in people's individual lives. Only that way will we develop our understanding and compassion towards others. Just look at how we all share our "news" on Moodscope, and how helpful that is.

Paul Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 4:37pm

Earlier this year ( in fact it may have been a New Year resolution) I made a conscious decision to limit my news intake. I was a news junkie and prided myself in being aware of ' what is going on '.

However, as the post mentioned, you will always find out somehow without religiously tuning-in to rolling news programmes. As a consequence, I truly believe that my anxiety levels have moderated since I decided to change my habits.

Also, I believe that the inevitable repetiveness of the news eats away at you, causing more subconcious anxiety - does that make sense?

Julia Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 6:02pm

Yes it absolutely makes sense Paul. When I lived abroad on and off, the only English news/channel I had was BBC World. Every thing else was in a Cyrillic language which I didn't understand and was never there long enough at any one time to learn. BBC World repeated its headlines/ news content(and the weather)every hour, the same old news item and weather forecasts. I longed to hear something new and was driven to distraction hearing the repetitions. Watching Sky News et al can have the same effect

Peter Wood Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 6:02pm

I have studiously avoided the news for most of my life. I consider myself a compassionate and caring person, but restrict myself to things I feel I can make a difference to. I decided long ago that anything of world-shattering importance would inevitably bring itself to my attention through friends and colleagues. For the rest I try to be kind and caring to those around me, I donate to many different charities and I try to vote with a conscience. Life is considerably easier for me using this approach, and I am thus better able to act as a rock for my loved ones and as a mentor to my work colleagues.

Peter Wood Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 6:05pm

Oh, and I have avoided broadcast TV entirely since 2000, so I don't get driven crazy by commercials. Watching DVDs of shows and movies without the adverts is wonderful!

Anonymous Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 10:10pm

Thanks I found this moodscope message helpful

Caroline Ashcroft Fri, May 31st 2013 @ 11:07pm

Annie sent me a link to an article in the Guardian by Rolf Dobelli on this subject which may be of interest:

The Beachfeather Sat, Jun 1st 2013 @ 6:59pm

Wonderful points being made here, i like Pete's one too about broadcast tv, i'm also taking that approach, and again, it is helping me a great deal to be more mindful.
i'm encouraged by this blog, having often felt like a weirdo for my approach to go against the flow.
thanks guys, x

The Beachfeather Sat, Jun 1st 2013 @ 7:09pm

and a wonderful and very thought provoking article link, thank you Caroline!

Caroline Ashcroft Sat, Jun 1st 2013 @ 9:00pm

So pleased you enjoyed it and thanks for the feedback.

Anonymous Fri, Jun 7th 2013 @ 1:23am

I loved many of Beachfeather's comments on this blog. I have never enjoyed the news because of the feeling of powerlessness it invokes. I am both time and cash poor, and have been most of my adult life, so volunteering and donating to charities has never really been an option for me. I actively avoid the news not only for the feeling of powerlessness it creates within myself, but also because I do not need to support all the negativity in the world by feeling bad about watching the news. On an energetic level, the more people watch the atrocities happening around the world, the more frequent and horrible they will become. I don't need to watch the news to know the world has horrible things going on. All I have to do is hear that a friend got raped, or an old acquaintance is out on the street addicted to meth. I consider myself a highly compassionate person, and whenever I sit down to meditate, it is all those suffering over seas who recieve the efforts of my meditation. I can do more good for those in need by focusing on them getting to live happy, comfortable lives, than I will ever be able to do knowing the horrible plight they're in. I've witnessed it in my life so often, that the law of attraction applies to our thoughts and feelings, and through them, to the world around us. If everyone was focusing on peace and contentment as opposed to violence and hunger, the world would be a much better place.

The Beachfeather Wed, Jun 12th 2013 @ 12:05pm

Hello Anonymous,
You raise a very important point from an energetic or i'd say, higher perspective, that of powering positivity in the world by 'tuning into that frequency' by conciously choosing powerful thoughts, (including what we watch/read of course). Thoughts are energy and cannot be destroyed, they go somewhere. They say that everything is energy - i just forget that often. The journalist author Lynne McTaggart published an interesting book called The Intention Experiment. Many cutting edge scientists are not researching and publishing findings on this. The frontier where science meets spirituality is fanscinating. I recently came across an incredibly inspiring speaker last week: Satish Kumar the editor from magazine Resurgence and am looking forward to my first subscription of positive news! 50 years ago, He walked without a penny, from India to the Whitehouse in America to promote peace, now that was a good news story i'd have loved to hear, but it was all the more inspiring to hear how he is still doing what he can to make a difference, that is the kind of news which gives me great hope for our future......

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