It amazes me how people can act like smart consumers in some situations, and like helpless pawns in others. Consider the way most of us handle the news — especially television news. I don’t care which news station you watch; emotionally speaking, they all know that it’s good business to emphasize the negative and downplay the positive. They need to grab your attention to sell commercials. I’m not knocking the profit motive, and that isn’t the point anyway. The point is WHY is it so profitable for news networks to hammer the negative? Simple: Because people eat it up. If people tuned out in mass numbers, the networks would change. But we don’t, so they won’t.
The computer age spawned a great saying: “garbage in, garbage out,” and that gets to the root of it. If you constantly put negative thoughts into your mind, with no balance or perspective, then you’re going to experience negative emotions.
Celebrated psychotherapist Albert Ellis developed a technique known as “Rational Emotive Therapy.” It’s a non-medical approach to treat and prevent depression. The theory assumes that most people do not get upset by negative events, but more by their interpretation of those events. For example, it’s not accurate to say: “I’m upset about the high cost of gas.” It is accurate to say: “I’m upset because I assume that high gas prices are an irredeemable catastrophe with no possibility of ever getting better.” Your assumptions and interpretations are making you upset.
When watching what passes for the news, you have to realize that OTHER PEOPLE have made the choices about what YOU are going to see. The goal of television news is to grab your attention by being as negative (they call it “sensational”) as possible. Much is made of the political bias that exists on news networks, but little is made of the emotional bias. Apart from political bias, a lot of stories have to do with horrible murders or incredibly irrational behavior on the part of a tiny minority of the population. I find no benefit in learning about the antics of such people, especially if they’re celebrities. It does nothing constructive for me. Yet this is what the networks spew out 24/7.
Become a savvy consumer! You wouldn’t go into a restaurant and pay no attention to what’s being served. You wouldn’t go into a clothing store and disregard the quality or color of what you’re buying. So why allow the biased producers, writers and owners of TV news outlets to feed your brain? It’s up to us to take responsibility for what we put into our minds, because there WILL be emotional output, one way or another. Cynicism and negativity (garbage) in, depression and emotional malaise (garbage) out. Period.
For over 30 years I have spoken with people who suffer from various degrees of depression. When I ask them how much they watch TV news, the answer is almost always, “quite a lot.” When the news gets switched off and replaced with carefully selected written sources, mild depression often disappears.
Of course I recognize that a lot of the news IS bad. Facts are facts — good or bad — and while knowing them is no guarantee of coming up with the right answers, it’s the only hope for finding solutions. But the presence of negativity is no reason to ignore the positive aspects, which is exactly what the news networks do. They shout over and over [insert scary computer animation here] that you better stay tuned so you can sit through to the next deodorant commercial!
Domestic violence. Miscreants hurting their children. Insipid celebrities with their drug and alcohol problems. Romances that turn into kidnap or murder. Do we really need to know about ALL of this garbage day in and day out?
My advice? JUST SAY NO to the cleverly scripted “news.” Choose your sources carefully, know what you need to know and put it into perspective. No news network will ever do that for you.
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