Hello everybody, welcome to episode 65 of Optimal Living Advice. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. We’ve got a question today about the news – how valid it is, whether to follow the news, and what to do with it. Great time for this question to be coming in. Let's kick back and hear what’s on this listener's mind…
QUESTION: “How should we approach or follow the news in a time like this? I ask myself if it’s doing more harm than good. Is there a better way to get updates or do you recommend listening to it to stay up to date? Thanks!”
You’re very welcome, happy to take this question. That’s a question that could be asked at any old time in my opinion. But obviously it’s no secret as to why that importance of that question is at an all time high and has been rising steadily for a while now.
“We” vs. “You”
So, I think the first thing to mention here is to banish this idea of “we.” How should “we” approach the news – there is no “we.”
There’s you. Due to the political climate, the news has become this sort of monster that a lot of people follow because they feel obligated to since the masses are – and a lot of extra devoted news watchers like to shame those who don’t watch.
I’m not saying this is necessarily the case for you, especially since this question sounds like it’s coming from a free thinker who wants to question their own decisions, but it IS the case for a lot of people. Everyone needs to come to these decisions for themselves, so don’t be afraid to formulate your own choice about this , and hopefully this episode will help you to do that.
Look at the News Objectively
So before you do or do not make alterations to how much you choose to involve yourself with the news, take a step away from the emotions it sweeps you into and look at it objectively (which is difficult right now, I know). We often forget that although the news is based on nonfiction, it’s still a massive media platform with a lot of money behind it.
That means that in order to survive, it needs a lot of viewers. And in order to get a lot of viewers, it needs to harp on people’s feelings. It needs to elicit an emotional reaction, because people act based on their emotions. Producers know that 99% of viewers aren’t open-minded to other ideas, which means they also know that the more drama and conflict they create, the more loyal each viewer will be to their side.
The viewer’s lack of open-mindedness to the opposition only perpetuates the opposition’s strength and further influences them to do what they do, so news channels of all different political leanings can strive and the people behind MSNBC and FOX news can party in the Hamptons together. And a big reason that local television news cut back on elements that attract viewers (such as breadth, innovation, and sourcing) is because the business seeks to maintain profit margins of bygone times.
It’s the same thing with regular, fictionalized TV shows. The expertise really lies in the marketing and how it affects people, and only some of the content is actually intelligent.
The News and Retaining Viewership
Think about it: if everything you heard on the news was coming from experts who had all the answers, you wouldn’t have nearly as much divisiveness. There are people who have worked and studied the same material their whole lives to earn high-end news jobs, and they completely disagree with one another. You’d be hard pressed to find that in other fields.
I recommend to everyone that they go watch a news channel they wouldn’t normally watch, a channel that supports the other side of politics. All educated people, but who have come to different conclusions based on different feelings and know that viewers work the same, so those feelings need to be stuck to to retain viewership rather than challenged.
That’s how I see the objective truth of the news, and though I feel that’s very hard to argue with, again, there will be plenty of well-informed people that disagree with me. What really matters is how the news makes you feel. Note: how it REALLY makes you feel, not how you think it makes you feel. Consider what purpose you want the news to serve you and go from there.
It seems to be stressing you out. Why? What’s getting in the way of that purpose being met and how can you find alternatives?
Find Alternative Choices
For example, if watching the news makes you feel glued to the TV and is sucking time away from your day or making your eyes hurt, choose to read about it instead.
If you follow the news and it makes you feel irritable, go out of your way to search for 5 positive stories per day.
If you look to the news for the truth, the truth requires balance and therefore you should be looking for balanced news sources, and balanced news sources don’t spend all of their time bashing the opposition without ever recognizing their strengths.
If this is your goal of the news as it is for most people, the sad truth is that the most reliable news outlets are long form essays that are not entertaining to indulge in. Shocking, right?
Your Motivation for Following the News
But you might be stressed by the news yet not have a strong sense of purpose tied to it at the same time. Then why watch?
You’ll hear about the biggest events either way.
Watching the news is not the civic duty it’s often made out to be. It’s just watching the news. That’s all it is. Like anything, if there’s no meaning or purpose attached to it, then it’s just taking up your precious time and mental space. And that’s usually how the news is with people. Rarely does watching the news ever cause people to make contributions or change their behavior in any way. Instead what it does is trick you into thinking it’s valuable because it’s very good at creating a strong emotional reaction from you.
And if you're a woman reading this, keep in mind that studies have shown women are more stress reactive after being exposed to negative news as compared to men!
So it’s up to you to determine if your attachment to the news is based on real passion and vigor, or if it’s just got a hold of you because everyone’s doing it and it gives you quick hits of adrenaline each time you tune in.
If it’s the former, then you should seek to find news sources that are unbiased and therefore, probably not as popular as the usual. You should also make sure that the way you’re consuming from them is a way that’s pleasurable to you. If it’s the latter, then try ditching the news for a while and see how you feel.
Follow the News: Conclusion
I will say this, though: As for you, asker of this question, my bet is that right now, you’re not even retaining most of the information the news is exposing you to if the thought of whether or not to watch has been lurking around in your mind enough to submit this question.
Sure hope that helped, my friend. Thank you for sending the question in. I tried my best to give you a little combination of both my personal feelings and how you could identify with your own personal feelings regarding the news.
Just a note for everyone who has or will ask a question: it’s important that you come to answers for yourselves as much as possible. I try to give you all questions to ask yourselves and other tools to help you do that. The more you can come to these realizations, the more confident you’ll be in them as opposed to if I just barked instructions at you while knowing very little about you. So just something to always keep in mind.
Keep those questions rolling in folks. You can email yours to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Best of luck out there everyone, and I look forward to talking to you again next time.