We in the modern world have perfected the art of receiving news by introducing TV news networks that play 24-hour news with second-to-second updates moving below the screen, the internet, push notification on our mobiles phone for the newest, most important news of the minute right at the tip of our fingers, delivered directly to us. I get to the tram station and there is a dispenser for a free newspaper, which many do not think twice to take along to read and leave on the seat of the tram as a service to the next person. I sit on the tram and I am bombarded by the news on a screen, which is extremely hard to avoid because it's right next to the screen displaying the next tram stop. I, like many in our society, was taught to stay informed of the news, as it meant that you were a well-read, aware, educated individual. But is this really true?
I believe that one of the questions should not be "what" is the news but "how" is this news. Over the years, I realized that the news being broadcasted/ published has become increasingly negative and bleak, about some event like an earthquake in some part of the world that I have never been to or a plane crash that killed a whole lot of people. If you know how many earthquakes occur in a day, which according the US Geological Survey happens 50 times a day, or that the number of commercial plane crashes in a year in the world is between 0-2. I ask myself sometimes why we don't hear of the thousands of flights daily that landed safely and didn't crash, as well as the information that earthquakes happen on a regular basis because our Earth is a living entity. How is my knowing of this event going to change anything? Many of us just read, listen, watch and do nothing about it except maybe to feel a little depressed or fearful for a moment until the next tragedy occurs. Who defines what news should be? This is where I question the intentions of news providers. Are they reporting this news because they have a genuine intent to aid society or living beings or is it just gaining profit by provoking some sort of emotional reaction in us through sensationalize information reporting? When I consider the "why" I am being provided with a free newspaper at my tram station every weekday morning, I observe that the paper is in fact NOT FREE, as it is filled with advertisements paid for by companies wanting to sell something to the readers. When we get news on the internet or push service, our data is being collected, possibly sold, to companies that are once again trying to sell or get something out of us. We are not benefitting from these but being sapped of our time, energy, attention and mental health.
What can we do so that we are getting news that we need and want? We have to be mindful and to search for it ourselves, if we want to. We will need to stop consuming the "media diarrhea" that is being projected on us. As neuroscientist Beau Lotto describes,
"While we still know very little about attention [...], it seems that the power of attention is not in doing the looking but in the ability to stop looking..., to look away, to move your eyes to the less obvious, to stop a cycle of thoughts and perception. (Lotto, 2017, 264)
We can consciously look away and fill our space of attention with thoughts and ideas that we ourselves deem important. If you are really in need of news, historian Rutger Bregman suggests:
"My rule of thumb? I have several: steer clear of television news and push notifications and instead read a more nuanced Sunday paper and in-depth feature writing, whether online or off. Disengage from your screen and meet real people in the flesh. Think as carefully about what information you feed your mind as you do about the food you feed your body." (Bregman, 2020, 392)
Bregman, Rutger (2020): Humankind - A Hopeful History. London: Bloomsbury Publishing
Lotto, Beau (2017): Deviate - The Creative Power of Transforming your Perception. London: Orion Publishing
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