10 Sinister Ways the News Is Destroying Your Life
The world is becoming news addicted, misinformed, anxious and depressed. The solution is simple.
“The media has changed. We now give broadcast licenses to philosophies instead of people. People get confused and think there is no difference between news and entertainment. People who project themselves as journalists on television don’t know the first thing about journalism. They are just there stirring up a hockey game.” -Gary Ackerman
I was one of those guys
I might get a lot of flak for this article but I’m writing it anyway.
I’ve had quite a few conversations with other entrepreneurs about this topic and we all came to the same conclusion: The news is generally, pretty bad.
My buddy Richie posted about this on Facebook and inspired me to write about it in more depth.
It’s something I feel strongly about, not only because I have many friends that are stuck in the hypnotic death grip of the news, but I used to be as well.
I was one of those guys. I’d watch or read something negative, and potentially controversial. I’d feel the strong urge to post it onto my Facebook wall or into my Twitter feed- or both!
I’d look for the most controversial thing I could post. I’d get into online and offline arguments and use more news to “back up” my opinions.
If I saw an event on the news that somehow victimized someone (or myself!), or a group of people, well, that had to be posted! The injustice must be known to the world! (Or at least to my Facebook followers).
It often wasn’t just a particular person or group that was responsible; it was a corporation, or even (gasp) the President of the United States!
Fortunately I was very lucky that I had a good friend unplug me from the Matrix.
Our conversation challenged my perception of the news. For the first time, I could clearly see the role the modern news media played in society, and my own role in that “game”.
From that moment on, I chose not to play the game.
10. The News Media Is Not a Public Service, It’s a Business
“The news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news… and it’s not entirely the media’s fault, bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news.” -Peter McWilliams
I had a friend once tell me that the news is a “public service”.
“That’s what the news is for- for informing us about the issues we need to better understand.”
Really? The last time I examined the business model of just about any news media company, it’s purpose was making money.
Unless it’s a State run media company, like in China or North Korea for example, the primary function of the news is to sell and deliver ads.
Don’t believe me? What happened when people stopped reading newspapers? Advertisers stopped putting ads in newspapers. Newspapers started going under. People lost their jobs.
It’s the ads that pay all the salaries in the newsroom and get the stories made. It’s the ads that funnel money into the pockets of the owners and investors. It’s the ads that run the empire of news media.
It’s not unlike Google and Facebook.
Sure Google gives us all these “free” tools like Search, Google docs and the Android operating system for our phones.
Facebook gives us this entire platform for connecting with the world, all for “free”! As long as they keep our eyeballs looking at ads all day.
The news isn’t driven by facts and relevant stories, it’s driven by ratings, subscriptions, click through rates and ad spend. Your attention is gold to them. Understanding this concept is key.
9. The News Ruins Productivity and Wastes Time
“While their competition is asleep, world-class leaders are up — and they’re not watching the news or reading the paper. They are thinking, planning and practicing.” -Robin S. Sharma
How many minutes a day do you spend watching or reading the news? 15 minutes in the morning? 15 minutes at work? 30 minutes at home?
An hour a day would be at least 7 hours a week, 28 hours a month, 14 days a year!
14 days glued to a news platform. What could you have done with those 14 days that would be more productive, more fulfilling and more meaningful? Life is short.
Also don’t forget focus. It takes around 20 minutes to gain deep focus and a second to lose it. News can be a distraction not unlike checking Facebook. Often the two are very intertwined.
Social media can augment the time wasting effects of the media. You not only read or watch the news, you share it, talk/write about it, even argue about it. We used to burn 5 minutes on a particular news story, now it could be an hour.
Productivity is not just time on task, it’s about what level of quality that time is at once it’s applied.
8. The News Kills Creativity and Doesn’t Allow You to Think for Yourself.
“The best things that capture your imagination are ones you hadn’t thought of before and that aren’t talked about in the news all the time.” -Steve Wozniak
The Creative Expanse
Most of us were more creative as children than as adults. As kids, our brains had a nearly limitless amount of space to explore, dream, make-believe and create.
The school system, parents and friends eventually put an end to all of that for most people. We fill our heads with things that the world already knows and understands, leaving little room to create the magic that would be our gifts, returning to the world.
The news is like a fire hose, blasting our minds with creativity-crushing, useless information.
Creativity is a muscle and it needs to be exercised. This exercise takes a lot of focus. Watching the news and thinking about the news removes this ability to focus on creative pursuits.
Inspiration comes from many sources, least of which is the mainstream media. Humans need time to think, time to focus, time to connect the dots and time to make new dots.
Filling your head with news leaves little room to do these things not to mention, the news is designed to interrupt your time!
For the media to make money, it relies on your attention. It needs your eyeballs on their content (and their ads).
Thus, the content is designed to interrupt and pull your attention away from what you were doing for as long as possible.
Social media is also designed this way. It’s no wonder a growing number of people get their news from social media.
Do your own thinking
You’re better served doing things that provide a real sense of inspiration, peace and space.
Create uninterrupted blocks of time for you to think about things. Focus on things that will actually move the needle for you, instead of moving the needle for a media conglomerate.
Come to your own conclusions based on introspection, thought and your own due diligence. Don’t take the news as gospel.
7. Much of the News Is Disseminated or Created by Non-Experts in the Field
“Television news is now entertainment, and the stories are being written by the people that have a special interest in them.” -James Taylor
“X happened because of Y”.
“The economy crashed because of the president’s policies”.
“The economy has recovered because of the president’s policies”.
Most news anchors on TV know little about the actual events they are reporting. They are reading off of a script written by someone else whose credentials and agenda you are not made aware of.
The news will try to condense a very complex topic down into something as simple and easy to disseminate as possible. At first, this seems logical and it keeps you watching but you will not get an accurate, deep understanding of what is being discussed.
Editorial news is even worse. Much of what news you’re getting is framed by opinion. While this is a very popular way to get news nowadays, it’s also highly biased with a lot of spin.
People giving you the news are made to look credible on everything they are reporting on, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t just “talking heads”.
Interestingly, this tactic of giving the audience just enough information, spun for desired effect, also works very well in the world of politics.
Politicians are very seldom experts in economics, the environment or world affairs, but we believe them- if it’s spun to match our world view.
6. Many News Stories Are Biased, Spun or Outright Fake
“Fake news is a big thing in the field of Social Media Journalism. Fake news can be as simple has spreading misinformation, or as dangerous as smearing hateful propaganda.” -Fabrizio Moreira
As mentioned previous, there is the strong possibility of bias in the media.
6 giant corporations own 90+% of all the media.
If you want to get your news from media giants like CNN or Fox for example, you are getting the news, but it’s being framed for you.
They decide what to report on and how it’s reported. They will match up the reporting with the worldview of their respective audiences. For example, is the audience Liberal or Conservative? This will dramatically affect how the story is presented to you.
The media personalities will use various methods to spin stories. Exaggeration, inaccuracies, emotional appeals, oversimplification and euphemisms are common.
Much of the news is someone else’s opinion, someone else’s script, disguised as pure fact.
Each news outlet has it’s own agenda. Remember, it’s not to provide factual news stories to society; it’s to get ratings and clickthroughs. To do this it needs to appeal to the world-views of it’s audience.
This gave rise to more and more editorial news. Instead of an anchor reading off a teleprompter, editorial news added more flavor by making a large percentage of the news peppered with opinion. This gave the news more “personality”.
Fox news was a large proponent of this early on and ratings shot up. Fox was accused of spinning their stories more than most other networks, but the fact was, it made money. Ratings were huge.
It was only a matter of time before CNN and other networks followed suit, taking it to a new level. This attention arms race, coupled with the social media news outlets gave rise to what is now known as “Fake News”.
“In a fascist system, it’s not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can’t tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.” -Naomi Wolf
The networks realized that an attention grabbing story, or even just a headline, had much better ratings, clickthroughs and shares. It didn’t matter if it was peppered with inaccuracies.
The reason why is, as long as it aligned with the world view of the audience, that audience would be very forgiving when it came to facts, or the lack thereof.
For example, a sensational story run on Fox that appealed to the world-views of their audience, even if it contained inaccuracies, would be widely accepted and shared.
The same story would never fly with CNN’s audience, but that was irrelevant. They weren’t watching. This has been the case in reverse as well.
CNN also created sensational stories that were purportedly full of inaccuracies and spin but that would perform well with it’s own core audience.
The 2016 presidential elections were a great example of the power of fake news and how audiences from both sides became willing participants in spreading it around.
Whatever your worldview and whatever audience camp you’re in, you are being manipulated. The news media has become the puppeteer, and the audience is the puppet. We dance to their tune and make them lots of money.
5. The News Is Shallow and Non-Explanatory
“TV news is not very instructive.” -Gore Vidal
News stories are reduced to headlines. You would think that a catchy headline would be a gateway into a deeper understanding of the substance under the surface.
In most cases, they just barely scratch the surface.
The news isn’t designed to go deep. It’s designed to match the attention spans of it’s audience and in some cases, outright shape those attention spans.
The news will give you just enough to grab your attention, but not enough to really educate.
Financial Crisis? The Russian aggression in the Ukraine? The GOP tax bill? Incredibly complex issues. I don’t think you could even find someone at the IRS that knows and understands the entire tax code.
No matter. In a few minutes, you are given just enough to think you have a good understanding of “the most sweeping changes to the US tax code in 30 years”. Then it’s on to riots in Iran or a car fire on the I90.
4. News Is Physically Toxic and Geared for Addiction
“TV does not care about you or what happens to you. It’s downright bad for your health now, and that’s not a far-out concept. I think watching the TV news is bad for you. It is bad for your physical health and your mental health.” -Tom Petty
There is mounting scientific evidence that the news is physically harmful.
Even using social media alone is apparently not very healthy.
“We journalists are a bit like vultures, feasting on war, scandal and disaster. Turn on the news, and you see Syrian refugees, Volkswagen corruption, dysfunctional government. Yet that reflects a selection bias in how we report the news: We cover planes that crash, not planes that take off.” -Nicholas Kristof
Most news is negative. Negative news can cause an uptick in stress levels, which leads to an increase in the level of cortisol in the body.
Cortisol causes a drop in immune system function and stops the release of growth hormone.
Our lives are probably stressful enough as it is. Watching the news only adds to that stress. Anxiety, depression, digestive problems and sleep issues can also be exacerbated by stress.
To make matters worse, the news is designed to be addictive. The media needs eyeballs on it’s content and ads, for as long as possible. Content is designed to be short, easily digested and entertaining/stimulating in some way.
It turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks. Science has proven that our brains don’t stop developing after we reach adulthood. The neural network of our brain is constantly making new connections and breaking old ones.
Watching content like this over and over again all day re-wires our brains.This is creating an insidious feedback loop. Our brains are re-wired to prefer the content we are given by the media, and then our brains prefer that content going forward.
We could be re-wiring our brains for lower attention spans. ADD is on the rise and as a society we are reading less and less.
The physical wiring in our brains is changing and the media might be dictating how our brains are being re-wired: for their gain.
3. News Is an Endless Source of Negativity and Negativity Makes You Sad
“If it bleeds, it leads.” -Famous law of the newsroom
90+% of the news is negative. Negative news gets higher ratings and more clicks. Negativity sells more ads.
War, natural disasters, consumerism, terrorism, financial crisis, disease and corruption. Choose your poison and drink it down. That’s what you’ll get for tuning in.
This is what gives news it’s attention-grabbing headlines and it’s stress-inducing powers. We are more likely to watch and click on bad news than good news. It’s how our brains are wired.
“The brains of humans contain a mechanism that is designed to give priority to bad news.” -Daniel Kahneman
The problem is, the news then becomes a very poor representation of reality.
By almost every single measure, the world is improving. If we look further back in time and compare it to today, this is the most peaceful, prosperous time in human history.
Watching the news, your worldview becomes warped away from reality. You start to see the world as a violent, cold, dark place in which you would never want to raise a child.
Again, these stories are shown because they sell ads, not because they are a true depiction of reality. So by watching them, you are allowing your worldview to be warped into darkness, all in the name of profit.
Besides the stress, anxiety and negative outlook, one of the worst things these negative stories do, is to create and reinforce the “victim mentality”.
2. News Makes You into a Victim, Operating Outside Your Sphere of Influence
“The most important decision a man will ever make is whether he lives in a friendly universe.” -Albert Einstein
The Victim Mentality
The news does it’s best to inspire fear.
Fear of the unknown, fear of what might come to pass and worst of all, fear of each other. The media has somehow convinced us all that our differences are what matter and that we are too different to coexist.
Even though this is clearly not true, it can become our reality, if we believe it to be. People, who believe that they live in a friendly world will see a world full of opportunity and optimism.
People who believe they live in an unfriendly world, will see persecution and look to be persecuted. They will, in a way, be seeking it out. You can hear this in their language, but you may also see it in social media.
People who constantly post news stories and memes about negativity, injustice and persecution heaped on others, usually feel somewhat persecuted themselves. In some way, they are taking on the role of a victim, often unknowingly.
When they constantly post negative stories on their social media timeline, it’s not an accurate representation of the world; it is an accurate representation of how they see the world.
The news story aligns with this negative world view and reinforces it in the mind of the reader/viewer. They feel the story must be shared. The negative feedback loop continues it’s vicious cycle. Clickthroughs and profits are increased for the publisher.
The Circle of Influence
In Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, he talks about successful people focusing on their circle of influence- the things they can control.
The news, by default, has us focusing on things way outside our circle of influence. These are issues we have absolutely no control over but that we are wired to worry about.
An act of terror in Afghanistan, an ICBM launch in North Korea and the president passing a bill that may or may not have any negative effect on our lives.
These are all things we have no control over, yet they are designed to be “big” stories that sell. You can’t help solve those problems. You’re wasting time thinking about them.
You could spend time watching and reading stories about events and issues you have no control over, or you could choose to do something more productive.
You could choose to focus on something that allows you to exert influence, where you can move the needle for yourself and for others.
You are better off thinking about solving problems in your own life or in the lives of those around you.
1. 99% of the News Is Irrelevant and Gives You No Tangible Benefit Whatsoever
“It is imperative that you learn to ignore or redirect all information and interruptions that are irrelevant, unimportant, or unactionable. Most are all three.” — Tim Ferriss
Take the fire hose out of your mouth
Being “aware” and “informed” is the reason most people give for watching the news.
As we have already discussed, how informed you will be after reading the news is highly subjective. From bias, to spin, to misinformation, there will be many barriers to being truly “informed”.
CNN pioneered the 24/7 news cycle and others have followed but watching the news all the time is not likely to make you more informed- far from it. Not to mention, you just can’t know it all.
“It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.” -Jerry Seinfeld
There is just too much happening in the world. Watching the news is already like sticking a fire hose in your mouth and you aren’t even getting 1% of what’s happening.
Ditch what’s irrelevant
Probably of greater importance is the fact that most of what’s on the news is completely irrelevant to you.
All the accidents, shootings, explosions, stabbings and political mudslinging have little or nothing to do with you (despite the media trying to convince you otherwise).
If you went a year without seeing any of that, how would that make your life worse? The fact is, it would probably make your life better!
The problem is the human brain is not wired to see what is “relevant”; it’s wired to see what is shiny and new. The media uses this human frailty against you.
“New” and “current” headlines steal your attention, taking it off important things in your life and placing it on generating revenue for the media.
If something isn’t helping you reach your goals, it’s holding you back. Get rid of anything holding you back, especially irrelevant news stories cluttering up your brain, warping your reality and wasting your time.
It’s not that a news company making money is bad. Most of the world is capitalist. I think we can all agree that a business making money and being able to create and maintain jobs is a good thing.
I am certainly not bashing the talented, hard working journalists out there either. There are a great many journalists that are working hard to find the truth and bring it to us.
The problem has more to do with the giant media machine. I’m simply asking the question, is watching the news informative, productive, actionable and healthy?
Does it inspire you to “do” and to create? Is it helping you reach your most pressing goals? Is it making you a better person? Is it making you a happier person?
If not, your time might be better spent on other, more important pursuits. Don’t be a pawn in their game. Life is short. Free your mind for success.
Try it out for a few weeks and see for yourself!
Make it Happen
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Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell securities or an offer of personal financial advice. It is offered with the understanding that the author is not engaged in rendering legal, tax, accounting, investment planning, or other professional services. It is suggested you seek out the help of a financial professional before making any investing or personal financial management decisions. The education contained in this article may not be suitable for everyone — use it at your own risk.