Research shows we have around 70.000 thoughts a day. Not sure how one counts those, but that’s a lot of thoughts if you think (whoops, another thought) about it, but not necessarily a problem. What is concerning is that another research shows 80% of our thoughts are negative. It doesn’t take yet another research to realize that’s a lot of negative thoughts on an average day.
This is no surprise when you realize most content we consume is not from the sunny side of life. The godfather of information distribution is our beloved news, and the news has become a shitshow of negative events. Rumour has it CNN isn’t an abbreviation for Cable News Network, but for Constant Negativity Network.
The news is literally everywhere and no matter where we look we are infected by it. Maybe not the full scoop, but just the headline when the notification pops up on our phones, or the newsflash that’s on the radio, or the enormous pile of newspapers in the morning train that grab our attention.
We have become news junkies. Anxious to get our small dosages of dopamine. We want to be informed, want to know what’s going on. We want to know what everyone is talking about, what the hype is, what happened to so and so. Being informed creates a sense of importance. But, at the end of the day, we aren’t important at all. It’s always about someone else somewhere else and not about us.
If something happens that needs our direct attention, it’s most likely we won’t get the intel from the news. In the rare case that something happens what has a direct effect on us is on the news, we will know.
Dodging news like Neo dodges bullets
Escaping the news is an artform in itself. Remember the scene where Neo does some fancy bullet dodging in the roof scene in The Matrix? That is what you have to do nowadays to not get hit with the latest breaking news headline.
We used to have the eight o’clock news, and that was that. Now we have 24/7 news following us every step of the way.
For most the first encounter with the world when we wake up is a negative one. The alarm goes off, we pick up our phone, only to see the first newsflashes in the home menu. If we’re wise enough to leave our phone alone for the first hours, we’ll probably get the suicide bomber in a faraway place news via the newspaper, tv, radio or internet. It’s a hard one to escape.
Let’s say you managed to leave the house with positive vibes, not infected by the news. Good for you.
Everywhere you look the news is spread. Newspapers laying on the floor, people talking about it non-stop. People starting conversations with the news like it’s common knowledge. “How about that debate last night between X and Y?”, someone says to you, leaving you with a big question mark above your head. The news is literally everywhere.
Remember the part from the dodging bullets scene where Trinity says “dodge this” and shoots the agent right through the head? That bullet is the news.
The news isn’t there to tell you what happened
The news nowadays has to be fast. Faster than the other news moguls to make it breaking news. The moment shit goes down somewhere it has to be on our notifications instantly. There are even some events where the news was online before the actual event (wait, what?)… How’s that for being fast?
In his book “Trust Me, I’m Lying” Ryan Holiday describes how easy it is nowadays to manipulate the media. The necessity for speed caused many loopholes to plug a twisted story because thorough fact checking takes time and at the end of the day the news is about making money.
So the news became so fast it’s impossible to get a story based on actual facts. Then this not so true story gets sensationalized and dramatized, and what do you get? Just some random, blown out of proportion, story that has nothing to do with the truth. Yet, we take it in as 100% facts.
The news should come with a disclaimer: “Here’s an event that happened. We have no idea what’s really going on, but here’s the opinion of some random dude. It’s just an opinion because we need content and it’s the best we can get at the moment. If this event really interests you, please use your own common sense and other credible sources of information to really find out what’s going on.”
The news isn’t the reality, it’s a version of the reality. It’s an opinion we are given and we adopt it as truth. To top it off, newscasters nowadays have opinions. Now we have a bullshit story that has nothing to do with the truth, brought to us by a newscaster with an opinion.
“There has been a terrorist attack here, avocados are bad for you/no their not/yes they are, this poll says this, he said that and here’s my irrelevant opinion on all this.”
The hidden agenda
The news in the USA is mainly controlled by six giants (GE, Disney, Time Warner, CBS, Viacom, News-Corp). Since we take the news as trustworthy facts, it is a great way to control our minds and to influence us. Remember the latest presidential election? No matter what, how and why, but at least one part of the news wasn’t telling the truth.
When large companies own what we see as a trustworthy source of information, ethics becomes a problematic thing. News that is relevant, but isn’t beneficial for the stakeholders never gets published. Or news gets twisted a bit or is completely staged to create an advantage in favor of the stakeholders.
This might seem a bit far-fetched, but he who controls the news controls the world. A lot of our opinions are based on the information we consume. If the news is not really passing the ethical test, we make decisions based on false information, which leads to great political effects and so on.
The news is like the person we look up to and trust. Our mentor who guides us through times of need, our guardian angel who has our back with our best interest at heart. And then one day we found out he was just looking out for his own and took advantage of us all the time. Ouch, that hurts.
The effect on us as watchers
Now you sit there thinking: “Well, maybe 50% of the news isn’t accurate, but there is something going on and it never hurts to be informed, and I like to take my mind off my own things for a second, it’s a good distraction.” Good point. If you realize the news isn’t 100% facts, you’ve won half the battle, but there are other things in play that are more urgent.
We become scared of the world
The news is still mainly negative and all the negativity sticks with us. This constant negativity makes us scared of the world, of other people, other countries, other (sub) cultures and so on. We become biased without exploring things for ourselves. We stop thinking for ourselves. We buy into the collective mind.
The news makes you lose faith in humanity. If you follow the news and believe everything that is said you will believe the world is going to shit, but it has never been a better time to be alive. There is less poverty, people are becoming older than ever, innovation is kicking ass and third world countries are seeing better times. Watch this amazing Ted Talk by Ola Rosling where he takes us through the data in a fun way.
But, according to the news, an apocalypse is right around the corner.
We forget to focus on what really matters
The news decides what’s news for you. Maybe there’s a ton of stuff going on that interests you more, but because you let the news dictate what you see you won’t ever find out.
We don’t need to watch the news to know there’s some shit going on somewhere. With seven billion people on the planet, there’s always something going on that can take your focus away.
We are constantly busy with watching what’s going on in other people’s lives and forget to focus on our own lives. In an amazing conversation between Tom Bilyeu and Jim Kwik Jim said: “most people give away their sovereignty and power first thing in the morning”. Watching the news in the morning robs you of your sacred me time and takes your focus before you left the house.
The news becomes something for chitchat, for small talk. We meet people and talk about the news, instead of talking about what really matters. The news is a safe haven to figure out if you and the other are on the same page. It’s a way to dip our feet into the others ocean to find out if we want to go deeper or pull out. Talking about an event that doesn’t affect us is so much safer then to talk about the personal stuff that matters.
We think we matter, but we don’t
We think we matter. Passively standing there, looking at it, and debating the news. Whether we have seen the news and talk about it, or completely missed the event, it doesn’t matter. All our sorry’s, comments and sympathy do nothing for the people strangled in the event. Being informed without action is useless. At best it’s harmful. Because it takes over our everyday life and we infect other people with it.
We can talk about how things are going over in China, or we can talk about how we are doing. We know everything about the presidential campaign, yet have no idea who our neighbors are. The macro is save. It’s far away so we can’t really do anything about it, and that’s comfortable. We can say what we want because we know it won’t matter. We are not held accountable. Our words won’t have an impact on what’s going on.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Be the solution
While everyone is talking about all the problems in the world, there’s someone somewhere working on a solution. We look at the government and the big companies for answers, but they come from below. From the small individual keeping his head down, working on a solution. It’s the student in university building a vacuum cleaner to clean the plastic soup from the ocean. Or the couple that goes to Africa to volunteer in the development of a clean water system. These are great solutions, but solutions don’t need to impact the whole world, we can start with just impacting an individual.
It can be a random act of kindness. Keeping the door open for a mother with three kids. Helping an elder lady get back up after falling down. Smiling at people on the streets and maybe a little chat here and there about how they are really doing.
These are just some small things you can do in the now, instead of focusing on the news that you can’t do anything about. Now we can make a difference, now we create positive news. Instead of talking about horrible news, the lady you just helped talks about how she just met an amazing person that helped her out and restored her faith in humanity a bit.
Maybe you didn’t change the world, but you’ve sparked a bit of positivity and it takes just a spark to set a chain of positivity in motion. If enough people would do this there wouldn’t be any negativity to show on the news.
Obviously, this is a long-term, utopian vision. But if everyone would focus on his own life and how they can impact their direct environment in a positive way, it would help to change the score for a better for the 70.000 thoughts a day.