How should we consume news?
This past week of “lock down” I have pretty much cut myself off from the news. I wasn’t super strict with it, I just shut off the TV and steered away from sites online. While some relevant news may have slipped through unintentionally, I just move on.
If you haven’t noticed, the sensationalism of today’s mainstream media tends to focus on stories that are geared to make us fearful or emotional. And yet for every negative news story out there, there are a hundred more things happening around us that aren’t necessarily getting coverage.
In our technologically connected world it is not so easy to just block out the “news” so how should we consume it without being overwhelmed by it?
First, we need to realize that we live in an eternal 24-hour news cycle, which is now more often than not, the same stories are repeated on CNN/Fox, websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Everywhere we go, media follows us and according to some research, this may even be damaging our mental well being.
So start by asking yourself why are you consuming the news, is there a need, is it of practical use, what are you doing with it, how does it make you feel, then decide how to consume it.
While there are those who might have a much larger need for political, worldwide, financial, or other information, the average person on the street would have less need for it. As for which medium to use, it is much the same, some would benefit from the instant access and others could delay access as long as possible.
Ultimately news should be knowledge and information which is based on the facts and figures, thus enhances our own knowledge, educates us, and makes us aware of what is happening in our society. Unfortunately, news today is less informational and more emotional. For example, hearing about some attack in the middle of a country far away, may not be beneficial to you personally, or have no actual impact on your life, however the reporting of it does as these events often trigger an emotional response.
So, regarding my original question, I would approach it with these guidelines in mind:
- Focus on what is immediately useful to you, local issues, weather, traffic, etc.
- If I must consume it, then do so objectively. Try to find the source and interpret it yourself, without all of the media spin.
- Use it as a `view from above`, ask how it relates to you and the rest of the world. If it is irrelevant to your everyday life, move on.
- Online, be mindful of click-bait or linking article to article. Be aware of trolls, the comment sections and how getting involved in these areas can make you feel.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to turn it off. If you are getting emotionally overwhelmed or too wrapped up in something they are parroting on every channel and every social media site, go read a book.
By observing and changing our news media habits, we can learn how to be informed, engaged, and politically aware while not sacrificing our mental well-being and stability. We will also be able to communicate and share our own thoughts and opinions better, without getting hooked by negative emotions when we run up against people with whom we don’t agree.
Today's news is tomorrows past.