Science,  Social

How Watching News Ruining Your Life

Imagine you are sleeping in your bed and suddenly you get to know that there is a snake under your bed.

What will you do?

You will jump from your bed and run away from your room.

Or imagine you are in a room with some strangers and you realize that someone among them is infected with the coronavirus.

What will you do?

You will go away from that room to avoid coronavirus.

What do these incidents suggests?

Our brain reacts to immediate dangers very fast. And it is for our good. Our ancestors used to live in jungles once upon a time. In the jungles, anything unknown was a threat to them and that’s why our brain is wired to respond to immediate dangers.

But this also means that our brain does not respond to anything which is not a danger immediately.

We fail to respond towards slow poisons that kill us bit by bit. Today there are many slow poisons we fail to recognize most of the time.

Watching news on TV or the internet is one of the slow poisons.

I know you must be thinking

‘But how does watching news affect us? Is not it our responsibility to become aware of what’s happening around us?

That’s exactly what I used to think a year back. We are told from our childhood to read newspapers, watch the news on TV, etc. Some people even go one step forward and feel it’s our obligation to watch the news as a citizen.

There is a famous phrase that everyone knows. It is

“An apple a day

keeps the doctor away”

Nowadays I have discovered a new phrase-

“An hour of news a day

keeps your mental peace and health away”

You might think I am exaggerating this. But trust me I am not. Just keep on reading.

First you need to ask yourself why do I watch news?

Out of obligation. To get information about the world. Or everyone should watch the news that’s why you watch the news. Maybe you are not interested in watching those news but it’s hard to escape also.

The news apps send you continuous notifications on your mobile. You open social media and watch news there. You go to Youtube and news is in front of you. It’s really hard not to watch or read news even if you want.

There was a time when news was available only for rich people. Normal people had no access to daily news. News was expensive.

With the advent of the internet, news becomes available for everyone. Today you don’t have to wish to watch news, news channels will trick you to watch their news.

And at the back of your mind even you believe that today’s news channels don’t provide anything worthwhile that can make your life better.

Even though you might know this but you can’t stop yourself from watching news.

There is a science behind this. I will discuss all of it here and what can you do instead.

What if I say your perception about the world is affected by the news you consume.

What if I say watching more than an hour of news a day making you inefficient, unproductive, stressed, angry, etc. Moreover, it has been found that watching excessive news increases your chances of a heart attack.

Would you believe that?

Believe it or not but scientific studies are proving this again and again. Our brain recognizes watching too much news as a threat and as a result, our blood pressure rises. The level of the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline increases in the body.

Annie Millar, a clinical therapist says-

“It can be damaging to constantly be reading the news because constant exposure to negative information can impact our brain”

In 2013, there was a bombing attack by terrorists during the Boston marathon. A lot of people including children died in that attack. It was a horrific incident. Media covered that attack live.

After that incident news channels showed that continuously day and night. Even after 2-3 weeks, the channels continued to broadcast the same news. We all are aware of such a situation.

Alison Hollman, a professor at the University of California, Irvine conducted a study to measure the effect of watching the terror attack news in people’s mental health.

What she found was very shocking.

According to their study, people who watched the news continuously on TV experienced more acute stress than people who saw the incident live.

https://www.pnas.org/content/111/1/93

You can imagine what news does with your brain.

So should not we watch news about such big incidents?

Just by watching 5-10 minutes, you will know everything important related to a big incident. Then what’s the need to watch continuously?

Most importantly, whenever a big incident happens, you will know about it even if you choose not to watch news channels.

But if watching the news is that bad, and people know about its ill effects, still why people watch it regularly?

Firstly, because it’s like slow poison so you won’t realize its bad effects immediately or even in the long term.

Then news media utilizes people’s psychology to make them addicted to their news. There is a term called ‘negativity bias’ or ‘Fear Psychosis‘. You might have heard these.

What is ‘negativity bias‘?

Negative events have a greater impact on our brains than positive events. Psychologists refer to this as negativity bias. Our brains are hardwired for giving negative things more importance than positive ones.

The reason for this I said in the beginning. Our ancestors had to give extra importance to any negative thing because that can be a threat in jungles.

Thus our brain identifies negative things more easily and they stay in our brain for longer times. Think about your own life.

How many times do you focus on the positive sides of your life?

How often do you express gratitude?

All of us mostly think about what we don’t have. We value ‘negative bias‘ and news channels take advantage of this.

Between loss and gain, they will show loss. Between fear and opportunity, they will show fear. Between flaws and strength, they will show flaws.

Take for example the coronavirus news. You have heard the news about the death rate of coronavirus and how many people have died. But how many times have you heard in news about the recovery rate of coronavirus?

In short, they will always put out the negative. They do it because we love it. We crave for negative news unconsciously.

I bet if you are watching the news more than 1-2 hours these days, then your common thoughts are like-

Coronavirus has taken millions of jobs‘, ‘businesses have gone bankrupt due to coronavirus’, ‘there is an economic disaster in the world due to coronavirus‘.

But what if I say-

‘New businesses are rising due to coronavirus’ ‘the technology is booming faster due to this pandemic’, ‘it’s a great time for anyone thinking to start something online’,

Even if there is an economic recession, it’s a temporary thing’, ‘every pandemic has made the world better than what it was before’.

Am I wrong?

I don’t think so. It’s all about how you frame a news.

Would you take an important decision of your life based on what you watch or read in the news?

I am sure you will not. To know about something you will read specialized books, related videos, or you will ask someone expert.

Economic news shown in the news channels has hardly anything to do with the economy of that country. You will never take any financial decisions based on that.

Even the political news is completely biased nowadays (at least in India). Every news channel supports a particular political party. They will never say anything against them. Hardly you will find any unbiased news.

“Today’s news channels don’t sell the news

they sell ideologies of different political parties”

There is a famous book named ‘Flat Earth News: An Award-Winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion, and Propaganda in the Global Media by Nick Davies.

If you are interested in knowing today’s news channels propaganda in more detail then read this book.

Before finishing the article I want to share a story of Henry Ford (the famous American Industrialist) with you.

During world war II, a journalist called Henry Ford ‘an ignorant pacifist’ because he didn’t have much information about how many soldiers British sent to America and other related things.

Mr. Ford objected to the statements and brought suit against the paper for libeling him.

In the court, the attorney asked Mr. Ford about world war just to prove that he had knowledge only about the manufacture of Automobiles but he was actually an ignorant man.

In answer Henry Ford said-

“If I should really WANT to answer the foolish question you have just asked or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer ANY question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me, WHY I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?”

I hope you get the point.

If you are still in dilemma about why one should quit watching the news?

The following 5-minute video might help you-

Therefore, the question you should ask yourself is not

Why I should not watch the news? But

Why should I watch the news?

Do you have any concrete reason for that

And say, you have decided to stop or reduce watching them but what will you do in that free time?

Replace your news time with something you enjoy. Read great books, learn an instrument, take some online courses. Start what you always love doing.

Still, if you want to get some dose of news, you can consider subscribing to some value-packed newsletters or good podcasts. These are far better than news channels I promise,

For example, if you are interested in knowing about the finance sector then you can subscribe to Finshots. They provide valuable news without much clutter or negativity.

Similarly, there must be a few other valuable newsletters. I send a newsletter every Thursday to my subscribers with an idea and book/article/video recommendations. If you haven’t subscribed, you can get in touch by filling the following form

If you love to watch newspapers then deliberately start choosing what you want to read. Don’t read everything a newspaper publishes.

I guarantee you by giving up watching news channels you will not miss anything. Rather you will bring peace, clarity, and positivity in your life.

Napoleon Hill in his book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ said-

“An educated man is not, necessarily, one who has an abundance of general or specialized knowledge.

An educated man is one who knows where to get knowledge when it is needed and how to organize that knowledge into definite plans of action.”

You don’t need to know everything. You just need to know your own craft.

What are your views on news channels? Let me know in the comment section below.

Have a productive week. Until next time.

Joy

Reference:

  1. e-biz facts: why you should stop watching the news
  2. How to cope up with news
  3. News and mental health
  4. Sciencedirect-Framing Effect
  5. Negative Bias

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