Once upon a time, there was one hour of local news and one hour of national and international news and it was good.
Americans went about their lives with a focus on their family and local community. Twenty-four-hour news didn’t exist; 24-hour television barely existed, and it was good.
It wasn’t perfect. But it was good. You could reasonably expect to avoid negativity in the news.
Americans didn’t know everything that was going on in the world. They didn’t know everything that was going on in their country. Americans didn’t much mind, and the country and the world still worked.
Rise of the 24-hour news cycle.
Then. came cable television. Americans had more stations than three from which to choose. In 1980, a billionaire buffalo farmer launched a 24-hour news station. He reasoned that if people wanted to watch 24-hours of music television, they’d surely want 24-hours news. American’s could get national and international news from around the world almost in real-time.
Americans had more stations than three from which to choose. In 1980, a billionaire buffalo farmer launched a 24-hour news station. He reasoned that if people wanted to watch 24-hours of music television, they’d surely want 24 hours of news. Americans could get national and international news from around the world almost in real-time.
Americans could get national and international news from around the world almost in real-time.
It was innocent enough until everyone realized that finding 24 hours’ worth of news that people would actually watch was a lot of hours a day, every day, to fill.
In theory, Americans wanted to know about important current events on the other side of the globe. In reality, they don’t.
Then came competition. Now there were three 24-hour news stations. Then there were stations that covered individual segments of the news for 24 hours.
It wasn’t long before sensationalism was the 24-hour news channels’ business model.
If you couldn’t rely on politicians or celebrities to provide something sensational every day, create your own pseudo-celebrities to argue with guests, make outrageous comments, and call that news.
Trying to avoid negativity in the news became much harder.
Fast forward to a world in which Americans learn about policy decisions in 140 characters and it’s all be a bit much.
Everything is outrageous whether it’s outrageous or not. Everything is in real-time whether it deserves to be or not. Clicks are more important than truth and being first is more important accuracy.
How can you avoid negativity in the news? Here are five ideas:
Turn off the 24-hour news.
Go back to where it all began and end it. With Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Sling, no one needs to pay for cable anyway. It’s too expensive. There’s too much of nothing to watch. And, it would be good if we all got off the couch more, The Walking Dead notwithstanding.
MTV doesn’t play videos and most 24-hour news channels don’t report the news.
If you want to avoid negativity in the news, stop getting caught up in the cycle.
Delete social media apps.
Social media was fun when it more about what people were eating, where they were partying, and where they vacationed.
Yes, it’s a free country and it’s our right to say what we think, but it’s also our right to not listen or read every opinion of every non-expert on everything that doesn’t really matter.
Until this last election cycle, I didn’t know how many of my 500 friends were political experts, legal experts, espionage experts, military experts, civil rights experts, and international relations experts.
We’re talking about people I watched do keg stands at frat parties, wear sexy nurse costumes at Halloween, and jump from job to job until they found one that didn’t require a drug test.
Some of my friends are pretty brilliant, but they don’t seem to be the ones filling my Facebook feed with every article or meme that “shuts down,” “slays,” and “buries” their opposition.
Seeing all their crappy news sources makes me want to avoid negativity in the news that much more.
Cancel your subscriptions.
In this age of technology, it doesn’t make sense to have traditional newspaper and magazine subscriptions.
As another way to keep negative news at bay, stop letting the negative news invade your home in video, audio, and print. With their shiny covers and eye-popping headlines, it’s hard to not want to open every issue and become equally outraged, but most of it doesn’t serve us.
Clean your favorites.
Admittedly, there was a time when the first thing I’d do in the morning was to click on each of my five “favorite” news sites. I use quotes because there were a couple of sites I completely disagreed with, but I felt it was important to have a holistic view of the news. I’ve since concluded that even this is not the best use of time.
I now give myself an hour to two a week to read The Week. The Week seems to try its best to report the news in, what one 24-hour news channel calls, a “fair and balanced” way. It’s not perfect, but most things aren’t.
But, for me, it’s one way to avoid negativity in the news while still being informed.
Of course, you want to stay engaged and hold a conversation. So, disengage from the one-sided conversations, step outside the echo chamber and get social. Talk, debate, disagree, and change your opinion with face to face conversation.
We’re social creatures. We teach each other. We learn from each other. We tell great stories. Your friends whose opinions and experiences you respect likely have better opinions and more information about most news than a political pundit on television whose first responsibility is to sell advertisements. Their responsibility to the news is a distant second, at best.
Doing all of these at once may be hard or impossible. But it’s a good way to avoid negativity in the news and keep it from dragging you down.
If you disconnect even a little, though, you’ll be more connected to what matters.