Life is full of suffering and trauma, something that we are reminded of on a daily basis through print and broadcast news services. I know that death happens, and so do you. As a therapist, I also know that people do horrible things to one another, and I am well aware how this effects those who are left in trauma’s wake. I constantly work with those who are trying to navigate that choppy wake and the personal consequences, whether that be physical or psychological. I am not ignorant to the world around me, I know what occurs out there, but recently I have decided to no longer let it intrude on my daily life.
I came to the idea of a media ban after numerous horrific articles were shown on television, and in prime viewing time for children to be in the room. Besides the fact that some of these articles are not ‘family viewing’, I realised that life has become too information laden and mainly negative information. I have a Facebook personal profile and one for my business, a Twitter, 4 email addresses, a Pinterest, and subscriptions to numerous other mailing lists and news services. Technology is wonderful, and is actually a core of some of my work, but there has to be an end point to how I interact with this. As my social media pages are self selected and easily censored, these have remained somewhat the same, however with a few exceptions.
Which brings me to my second point, that is that any news story or link which says “You won’t believe what happens next…” or “His/her response will astound you..” or any other similar sentiment, is immediately on my Do Not Click, list. Why? To start with, a lot of this is click bait spam made to simply drive traffic, the second, is that when these are genuine news links, they often under sell the positives of normal human behaviour. For instance, the mother who writes a note to her gay son, saying that she accepts him. We are expected to look upon her in adoration, and believe in the buzzword of ‘Faith in humanity restored.’ But when we look at this in a realistic sense. why is she some sort of heroic figure to look up to when the behaviour which she exhibits is that which we would expect from any good human being. You see, the issue that I see at the moment is that news agencies not only exaggerate the improbable (ie shark attack) but they also are starting to promote stories which minimise the general good will and subsequent behaviour of the average human being, as the aforementioned accepting mother story highlights. If you are in the habit of clicking on these links, ask yourself, when you find out the ‘surprise’ in the story “Am I really that astounded?”
I have blocked news websites on my laptop, sites which I easily navigate to in times of boredom, or when I am feeling that I must have something to talk about the next time that I run into someone in the halls. I find that the desire to know what is happening and expose myself to the trauma and intimate lives of others tends to be an automatic response to downtime. So now, in the time that I would otherwise be searching the web about news, and the inevitable concepts and stories that I Google after the initial story, I have found that I have been more productive with the things that I actually need to do, not want to do.
My view is that with the intrusion of negative news stories on our everyday lives, and the potential for children to witness these, we need to take a stand to ensure that the next generation isn’t brought into a society where they believe that the chance of adverse events is overinflated, creating anxiety about events that have a low chance of happening, for no other reason that the fact that overinflating news makes money. The more indignant you are, or scared about the consequences, or wondering what happened next, the more likely you are to ‘Stay Tuned’ or click through and thus expose yourself to advertising programs which were intended to lure you in.
People will say that this approach is just sticking my head in the sand and becoming ignorant of the state of the world and people in it, but I don’t buy that. I don’t buy the fact that I can’t be proactive about causes without having to get incessant updates blared at me day and night, to tell me how I should be feeling. In a single half hour of news, there are reports of a rare illness outbreak, car accidents, adverse weather events, changes in fortune, not to mention events and conflicts which are happening abroad. I think that humans have a limited reserve for this kind of vicarious stress, and cramming so much trauma in a day tends to limit the ability to focus properly on any one idea. The problem is that we no longer have the concept of slowing down and taking life on life’s terms, we are forever inundated with the minutiae of what happens in others’ lives, the pain that they feel and the suffering of others.
I am of the opinion that if there is something that is important in the world, then someone within my inner circle will tell me their view of it. At the moment this learning news by-proxy is my filter to get rid of the things that really do not matter. Like the tree falling in the woods, does a news story really mean anything if no-one talks about it? My view is that if I am able to switch off from a lot of the noise in the environment, I am better able to tune in to those things that really matter.