Monday, January 4, 2010

24-hour cable news is bad for you

I would now like to address the challenge of being well informed and up to date on current affairs while avoiding the hysteria of the mass media which aim to spoon fed Americans in a spasm of fear.

It bothers me a little when my friends say things like “I don’t want the news; it doesn’t effect me and its so negative it brings me down all the time.” First of all, I’m sad that they get sad when the think about how terrible the world can be; I mean, it is depressing sometimes and who wants their friends to be sad? But advice like this, found at an otherwise excellent blog The Personal MBA -

Seriously – 99.999% of the things you hear in the media are completely outside your sphere of influence or locus of control. The news media makes money by attracting attention, and nothing gets attention more than the rumor of imminent danger or threat. The only likely outcome of watching the news is that it’ll sap your attention and divert your energy from improving your situation to fretting about what the world’s coming to. Keep your attention on what you’re doing to build the life you want to live, and it’s only a matter of time before you get there.

- also bothers me because, as a citizen of a democracy (in title anyway; let’s not go there today shall we?) that is a major influencer of the world, I think its irresponsible to not care. It’s your right to not care of course, and maybe I’m not thinking about the people out there who will never care, no matter what. But as a curious human being, don’t you want to know what’s going on?

The real issue is about control: where you get this information dramatically effects how you feel about it. Is someone behind your TV screen and someone behind a desk telling you what you Need to Know? Then of course you’re going to feel lost and scared. I agree with the above point in that those Someone’s eat when they get your attention and the cheapest, easiest way to do that (since the world can be, in fact, a somewhat scary place) is to talk about bad things and the negatives. Seriously: look at those headlines!

What’s the solution?

Instead, get your news from sources you can control, and the Internet is the best place to start. At least at the above sites you can click on what you want to know about and what is important to you.

A site I like to get my news from is Politico. I’m subscribed to its RSS feed in my Google reader and, throughout the day, I get a peek at its headlines. If a headline seems especially important or interesting to me then I click and read further. Otherwise I focus on what I’m interested in and what makes me happy.

Salon and Slate are good news sites that mix hard news with feature stories about life that make me happy. Twitter trending topics, interesting articles your friends are posting on Facebook - these are other ways you can focus on what you want to know about without all the DRAMA. Take advantage of technology and learn about the world around you! It's not all that scary, really. Plus, it's fun to get fired up!

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