“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
First, I should explain what I mean by “the news.” I’m referring to traditional news from traditional media, reporting on stories which are predominantly disheartening or shocking; job losses, natural disasters, crime, celebrity scandals, etc. That’s the type of news you should stop watching, reading and listening to.
Why? I’ll give you several reasons:
1. The news is depressing
Many news outlets try to throw in a few positive or cute stories every now and then, but I’d estimate that the ratio of negative to positive stories for the vast majority of them is at least 9:1. So every time you watch the news, you’re feeding yourself an overwhelming amount of negativity which infects your thoughts. Napoleon Hill wrote about the power of our thoughts in Think and Grow Rich:
Our brains become magnetized with the dominating thoughts which we hold in our minds, and, by means with which no man is familiar, these “magnets” attract to us the forces, the people, the circumstances of life which harmonize with the nature of our dominating thoughts.
In other words, the predominant thoughts you allow into your mind actually affect your reality. Knowing this, I’m not sure why anyone would subject themselves to all the negativity in the traditional news media. If you really want your news fix, subscribe to some positive news sources instead. I subscribe to DailyGood.org and get a positive, inspiring news story every day; the type of information that makes me feel good about the world.
2. The news is a poor representation of reality
You might respond to the last point with the following: But Niall, you’re just ignoring the real issues, deluding yourself to believe that the world is all sunshine and rainbows. That’s not realistic.
Yes, I guess you could say I’m deluding myself, but no more than those people who do watch the news. I’d argue that their view of the world is just as skewed, if not more so. They’re led to believe that the world is a heartless and violent place. All that bad news breeds fear and distrust. Old people sit at home all day reading about assaults and robberies in the newspapers, and because of that they’re terrified to go outside. News consumption can easily lead to a victim mentality, the belief that danger lurks around every corner, that every stranger is a potential mugger or rapist rather than a potential friend. That’s not the world I want to live in.
Now I’m not advocating that you avert your eyes whenever you walk by a TV tuned to CNN, or recoil from every newspaper like a vampire from sunlight. No, you shouldn’t go to drastic measures to avoid bad news for fear that it will corrupt your happy reality. What I am suggesting is that you stop going out of your way to invite all that negativity into your life in the first place.
3. Everything in the news is beyond your circle of influence
“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, The 4-Hour Work Week
Pretty much all the issues reported on TV and in the newspapers are beyond your circle of influence. As such, you can’t help solve those problems, and so it’s a waste of your time and energy to worry about them. You’d be infinitely better off using that time and energy to solve problems in your own life and community.
I look at it like this: watching the news does nothing to move me closer to my goals, and anything that isn’t moving me closer is holding me back, so I ditch it.
4. You don’t need to stay informed
The most common response I hear to the above arguments goes something like this: I watch the news to stay informed. I like to know what’s going on in my area and around the world.
First of all, I’m not sure how anyone can “like” absorbing information that affects their thoughts and emotions in a negative way. That’s certainly not my idea of a good time. But let’s address this idea that you might be “uninformed” and “miss out” if you don’t keep up with the news.
Say you didn’t watch any news television, listen to any news radio or read any newspaper for a whole year. What would be the worst thing that could happen if you managed to avoid all that? Maybe you’d miss hearing about that massive tidal wave heading your way, and end up very wet on account of your non-conforming, non-news-consuming ways. But then, you’d have to believe that if some such impending disaster was inevitable, you’d be likely to hear it mentioned by someone in your social circle and have enough time to build yourself a raft.
Phew. Crisis averted.
5. You’ll never know it all anyway
Even if you try your best to stay up to date with all the latest news, you’ll still fall well short of knowing everything. There is so much happening in the world and so much written about it, that the most you can hope to learn is a lot about a little.
Henry Ford knew this well. During World War I, he sued a Chicago newspaper for libel after they referred to him as “an ignorant pacifist.” As part of their defense, the newspaper’s attorneys set out to prove that Ford was indeed ignorant by putting him on the stand and asking him a series of general knowledge questions. Ford admitted that he couldn’t answer most of them, but noted that he had the means to, with the touch of a button, summon to his aid people who could supply any knowledge he desired. What then, would be the use of him cluttering up his mind with such information?
6. You can catch up quickly if you need to
To find information nowadays, you don’t have to be rich and connected like Henry Ford, because, luckily, there’s this thing called the Internet that levels the playing field. Thanks to Google, rather than letting all kinds of unfiltered and irrelevant information find and consume you (as is the case when you browse news websites), you can search just for specific information relevant to your situation. Get in, get what you need, get out. Kinda like an appendectomy.
As Napoleon Hill wrote when recounting the Ford story in Think and Grow Rich:
An educated person is not necessarily one who has an abundance of general or specialized knowledge… Any person is educated who knows where to get knowledge when it is needed and how to organize that knowledge into definite plans of action.
Another way of finding information quickly is via a device called a telephone, with which you can converse with people who know more about the subject than you do, and ask them questions about it. It’s fun, you should try it.
Now that you understand the foolishness of watching the news, I hope you’ll take action to reduce your information intake. Do it and you’ll find yourself with much more peace of mind and time to spare. Enjoy.