Why you should stop watching the news

 

“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.

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28 Comments

  1. I have been recently exploring getting more minimal, with regard to focusing more on creativity, and I have also cut out news. Anything I care about is already in my RSS reader or I’m sure I will see it in my Twitter feed. I actually don’t watch any TV at all except basketball. About 5 weeks ago I also cut out internet forums– all of them, cold turkey. I find I have a tendency to rant, and it is just a waste of time and emotional energy. I can’t stop the anger and the ranting, it’s just my personality, so I cut out the source instead. That’s a whole list of things I don’t have to see and places I don’t have to go where I know I will be annoyed by something I don’t need to be annoyed by.

    • That is a good idea. I pointlessly rant all the time at these news articles that are so freaking dumb and annoying. Maybe I should just cut it all out. Thanks.

  2. Most of the news I hear about these days comes via Facebook or Twitter, though I’m thinking of cutting back on the former a lot in the coming weeks, and I don’t use Twitter as much as I used to.

    Regarding minimalism, have you heard of zenhabits.net? Leo over there is the king of minimalism, as is this guy.

    I’m liking your new blog design, Sarah. Very nice.

  3. I fully agree with you. Actually news sucks most of the time. I go one step further….I do not watch television at all…I catch up with sports updates next morning on newspapers.

    Second, watching news is an absolute waste of time. After watching it you are no better off…probably worse off with negative emotions. Newscasters and correspondents project an hunkydory image of the world around us and thats pretty irritating.

    What will be the mindset of the guys working in these news chanells(Editors,reporters) who always live in such hostile negative environment….A friend of mine who works as a tv cameraman told me this. During the horrific tsunami which destroyed south asia a few years back, the tv crew landed in one of the fishing communities and were interviewing the women. Women out there were composed while giving facing the camera…but the newsmen urged the women to cry and break down a bit so that it can create a sensation for people who watch….how mean and how sick…..

  4. Thanks for the comment, Kathir. I’m considering giving up TV completely. I can definitely see the benefits.

  5. I do not watch the news a long time, since about entering college, my life has settled well, provided that there is something important I learn quickly without any problems.

    Now I have much more time to do my most productive activities.

  6. Great topic. You are so right. Television news and a lot of the radio news should really be classified as entertainment, it is so twisted and spun.

    We saw this dramatically during the big fires we had in the Southern California mountains. People were evacuated from their homes and glued to the news. Most were sure that all of So CA had burned and their homes were gone. When they could return to the area, they had trouble finding signs of the conflagration depicted on the television 24/7 for that week.

    I think the emotional damage done to these people was criminal. Some good came out of it though. At least one internet news service that monitors the local scanners and has local people reporting what is really going on here.

    I’d love to hear your Toastmasters speech about this. Good luck!

    Caroline
    a member of the Bearly Speaking Toastmasters
    Big Bear, CA

  7. Caroline, thanks for reading, and for the thoughtful comment. I’ll be recording the speech and posting the video on here afterward.

  8. I found your website while I was looking for support to stop watching crime dramas, especially “Criminal Minds.” When I watch episodes of Criminal Minds (on DVDs one after another!) I can’t stop thinking about the horror I’ve seen. I know this can’t be good for my mind and spirit. I’m now listening to Wayne Dyer and Eckhart Tolle and reading good non-fiction books. I don’t have cable and rarely watch TV and actually stopped watching news shows for the reasons you’ve stated and for another reason–I don’t think they tell us the truth about what is going on in the world news, and they can slant it any way they want to. I’m glad I discovered your website. I’m looking forward to visiting it a lot.

  9. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kathy. That’s a great point about the “news” not always equaling the truth. At the end of the day, news stations need to make money to stay alive, and so they need to lure viewers. The quick and easy way to do that is to sensationalize stories or put a controversial slant on something that’s not all that controversial. Not all news outlets do this of course, but many of them do.

    Glad you found my site :-)

  10. Wow. Just re-reading this site, which I bookmarked prior to terminating my relationship with the TV news. My family doctor had told me that I should stop based on his opinion that “the first 15 seconds of the evening news is the absolute worst 15 things that happened in in the entire world, exaggerated by 1000% and squeezed into that 15 seconds.” That sounded quite radical at the time. He also said that no normal person, in his opinion, should be able to fall asleep after watching that, but that most of us had become desensitized to the point where it’s not a problem for them. I now have six + months of no TV news, and about 5 months of no newspapers or internet “news”, and my anxiety level has plummeted. It was your “sphere of influence” comment that did it for me. Eliminating this spurious concentrated negativity from my life is the best decision I have ever made, and will probably add years onto my life. For that, I sincerely thank you for your opinions. I’ll not force my beliefs on others, people may do as they please, but as for me, a recovering tv news junkie, I am now committed to making certain that I don’t let ANYBODY steer my thoughts in a negative direction ever again.

    Really, thank you very, very much.

    I owe you.

    Kind regards,

    Jan

  11. Hi.

    Firstly, I think it’s engineered that way, the “news.” Negativity breeds more negativity. Nevertheless, I disagree with hiding from the truth. It’s like taking the blue pill of ignorance. Perhaps real truth news in short bursts are a good idea. I’m experimenting with that!

    Secondly, I would say that often the news is a DISTORTION of reality, not just a poor representation, so if by “news” you mean the surface bs of the daily “newscasts” then I agree 100%. I haven’t watched tv in about 5 years. If I do watch, I watch online, maybe with an hdmi cable attached to a big screen, and I choose what I want to see and when. In short bursts, of course, to avoid getting angry.

    So basically,I’ve had a similar idea to yours for a long time now, avoiding “news” and all of its associated negative emotions but at the same time I believe that avoiding the REAL truth of what’s going on in the world (say, with the “financial crisis”) and the real causes of world events is actually a bad thing, because it is ignorance that allows, oh, let us say, banksters to do what they want with no visible resistance in the richer countries.

    (That sentence was too long, I know)

    See: Eire, for example. The taxpayers get screwed for the banksters’ sins.

    What a disgrace!!!!!!

    • Thanks for the comment, Dean!

      I agree it’s important to stay informed about certain things. It’s just that most things we see on the news are completely outside of our control, so I find it pointless to dwell on them. If I’m not going to do anything about the earthquake in Haiti, it doesn’t make much sense for me to watch extended news coverage about it.

      But I get your point about needing to stay informed about certain things. I try to leave a little window open so I might come across news stories that are actually relevant to me. The great thing about the internet is that it allows us to pick and choose what information we leave into our worlds.

      Oh, and good call on the “distortion” bit. That’s probably a better way of putting it.

  12. I’ve subscribed to this philosophy for years for all the reasons you cited. I fill my inbox with GOOD news, which keeps me in a positive mood most of the time. When I am aware of bad news (floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.), I pray for those who are affected.

  13. I agree with you. Prodominantly, 95% of the world news is negativity and if the minds are conditioned to listening this negativity a person becomes a part of nagative world and endup attracting the same realities. Example, try to listen to African predo-negative news,99% is negativity. You become what you listen about most of the time.This is true, too much negativity on news.

  14. It’s a relief to run across opinions like yours. Direct writing plus humor doesn’t hurt either! I gave the boot on July 23 to Facebook and to conventional broadcast and print news. I’m in the process of redefining what constitutes news to me, and I agree utterly with your ‘actionable’ critique. It’s embarrassing to admit (and you can tell I’m not gainfully employed) that this has saved me 3 – 4 hours a day. It’s not just those hours, it’s the rest of my conscious hours that are sparked up by sloughing off useless blather that I either participated in (FB and all my ‘friends’) or passively lapped up (‘the news’). I’m making a long slow and delicious list of all the benefits of this blackout, and they really surprise me. It’s too long a story, but so far the list reads:

    – Laughing with Husband

    – Improved Digestion

    – Disproportionate Joy over a Clean Desk

    – Millipedes: Who Knew?

    and

    – This Could Be Contagious

    The point is: right on, Niall Doherty! and to all your current and future readers: go get your life back; your real life.

  15. Rock on, Lindsay Essburg! Glad you’ve kicked those habits and are making the most of the time you’ve reclaimed. I’m staying with my parents for a few weeks right now, and I’m amazed at how much TV they watch. Of course it’s no more than they’ve always watched, but it seems so excessive to me now. All that time that could be spent learning a new language, or working on a new hobby, or meeting new people…

    Anyways, glad this post resonated with you. Thanks a mil for the comment :-)

  16. Thanks for getting me to think, Niall. I watch the financial news, check tonnes of financial sites, and listen to an investment related podcast almost every day. Now, it might help me buy in at a time that will get me a few more percentage points, but ultimately my strategy is a buy and hold one and I will do okay with dollar cost averaging every month. After reading this I’m starting to think it is a waste of time to keep up with it all. Right now I am young and have limited investment capital–my time would be better spent earning more. A couple percentage points don’t mean much when I’m not investing much. I need to get my investment capital higher through working more hours instead of checking the financial media. Once I have large enough amounts where 2% is meaningful I’ll re-evaluate whether I should be scanning the web for opportunities all day.

    I might try limiting myself to a strict half hour per day and see if I miss any big opportunities. I doubt I will. Plus I’ll probably become happier because everything is doom and gloom in the markets these days.

  17. Great post, mate. I still like to keep in touch with sources who I believe give a more accurate depiction and don’t TELL ME what to think. A good example is the British paper “The Independent.”

    I wouldn’t piss on most of the other tabloids. I must admit however, that I have said a few of your examples what others say in the past and I do feel it’s good to have a certain amount of knowledge of what’s going on, but we certainly shouldn’t seek negative news. Which is what a lot of people do, and that’s just nuts!

    Dean’s got it spot on, with the word’distortion.’

  18. people, this might be easy for to say, but not everyone’s condition is the same. Not everyone has free wi-fi. And the same news are shown at least thrice a day, how is watching for 30 minutes a waste of time? Or maybe at least the highlights. If people watch news together and discuss about it, it helps to raise their voices for what’s right, they can see which president to vote for, they can be grateful for not suffering what others go through, they can pray for others, show sympathy, give donations. We must not just think of ourselves in this world, we must know that there are others out there, and there will always be something new to learn from them, which will benefit us. Also, don’t forget that these very reporters risk their lives everyday to bring us news and most of them exaggerate things in hopes that people watching those might raise their voices in protest.

  19. I went from $40hr to unemployment to nothing and became addicted to negative news internet sites. I’ve wasted the past 5 years on that crap and accomplished zero because of it. The same crap is still going on. I can’t do anything about it except inform others and depress them as well. For the last few months i’ve deleted all the sites and tried focusing on positive notes and my small business. I have literally got more done in the past couple months than in the past 5 years. I am still struggling on a day to day basis trying to fly straight with all of this. Just a short note to show that the news can ruin your life it ruined a part of mine–several years of it.

  20. I’ve been news free since May. I’m loving it. My friends still buy into the fear mongering and get their brains fried by over-saturation and being distracted by false truths.

    Very simple: I tune out broadcast news, podcasts, Facebook feeds, Twitter, talk radio, and newspaper. That takes care of eliminating politics, “bad news”, speculation, etc. I’ll check out “news” about science, archaeology, psychology, and my favorite TV show, but no more.

  21. This is my first day staying away from the news. My husband had been telling me to give up cold turkey for as long as I’ve been depressed, which is years. I didn’t realize the source of my depression was the news. All I thought about was the death, disasters, and destruction I read about. Internet news was the worst because there would be 12 more equally horrifying or disturbing articles linked on the bottom of the page I just finished reading. I was addicted and I just clicking more and more stories all night every night. Hours later, usually 3 in the morning, I would be too upset to sleep. It has ruined my faith in humanity and my paranoia is disrupting my family. I don’t let my kids do anything outside anymore.
    This is the best article I have read trying to get the encouragement to change. I am so glad I’m not the only one who is figuring out how bad news is to your soul.
    The comment sections always got me down, too. So many rotten people and trolls made me feel completely alone. It was as if every story that had comments attracted the dregs of society making the news sound like a Disney fairytale. These ‘peers’ of mine were affecting me as badly as the news. I was almost afraid these comments, but I am relieved there are no ridiculous people posting just to get a rise.
    Starting today I’m off news (and comments even if just for a recipe).
    Thank you for writing this article. I am excited about turning a new leaf.