Thought for the Day:
“Anger is a bad advisor.”
Question for the Day:
Are you letting the news affect your mood and well-being?
I don’t have a lot to say today, so consider today’s post a quick PSA. As a therapist, I am convinced that our society is edging dangerously close to imploding. In general, we are angrier, tenser, more stressed out, obsessively worried, and even downright paranoid about what bomb, literally and figuratively, might drop next. It’s been said before, but 2020 is honestly starting to feel like a horror show. Though horror movie victims might have barely survived the last attack with ripped closed and gushing wounds, the killer always seems to find a new way to catch them off guard and send them running for their lives once again. However, just like in the movies when the naive college coed makes the dumb decision to go down to the dark and isolated basement for a beer knowing there’s a killer on the loose, we also tend to make decisions that will only put us at greater risk. Though we can’t help that our villains run the country, we don’t have to allow them access to us by leaving the doors of our minds cracked with the consumption of too much “fake news.”
With so many news outlets competing for our attention, simply sharing information appears to be less of a priority. Facts are facts, so if the news presented to us was accurate, unbiased, and non-sensationalized, the source of the information wouldn’t matter. Yet, news outlets today don’t seem to care about decorum or ethics and instead are out here bangin’ like their the crips and the bloods! CNN and MSNBC are usually reppin’ for Democrats and “liberals,” while Fox News rides for Republicans, the “far right” and all things Trump. The right and the left both seem to be committed to stirring us up emotionally so that recruitment to their particular gang continues. This is even more evident as we approach the 2020 presidential election. There’s a political street fight on the horizon and both sides need recruits. Just like with real gangs, the only way to convince someone that involving themselves in something potentially harmful is worth it, is to get inside their mind and manipulate their emotions. Both sides of the news spectrum want us to believe that we are helpless and vulnerable on our own and need to pick a side in order to remain protected. However, if I have to give up my free thought, sanity, and peace for the sake of being “down” with the left or the right, then I’m mentally, spiritually, and emotionally dead anyway. Personally, I don’t need CNN to tell me how to think and feel. I can look at the facts for myself and make my own decisions as should every other free thinking person. If I’m out of work, scared to death of being pulled over by the police, and coping with the loss of a loved one due to coronavirus, I really shouldn’t need CNN to tell me things aren’t working.
Though the news industry hides behind a smokescreen of “journalism,” the truth is, it’s a business. Your favorite station can only stay on the air by attracting advertisers who pay for commercials to air during their programs. Companies are banking on the fact that enough people will watch certain programs, thereby making the the money they spent on advertising during a particular show worth it. Television in general is all about the commercials. The more popular a show is, the more companies will pay for commercial spots during that show. As someone who has worked in the television industry, I can guarantee you that any effort to entertain and engage you mainly serves to ensure that the price of a program’s advertising slots continue to rise. Therefore, if there’s a piece of information that needs to be shared, news outfits have to make it inciting enough to compete and keep you coming back for more. We as news consumers will only come back if we’re angry, worried and scared enough to stay tuned.
A common response to anxiety is increased information gathering. Our efforts to calm our fears will typically include seeking out more and more evidence that either supports or refutes our concerns. Straight forward and honest news reporting isn’t usually sexy enough to keep people glued to their television sets for hours, so if a news station wants to have some skin in the game, they have to make it juicy and play on our worst fears.
I say all of this to say that we have to get more intentional about protecting our mental health. If news outlets have an investment in keeping us angry, afraid, and intolerant, then it’s on us to put up effective boundaries. As a mental health clinician, I’m watching people lose their grasp on reality. Clients are finding it more and more difficult to cope in these challenging times and excessive news consumption is certainly not helping. My prescription for anyone who finds themselves obsessively checking their news apps and scrolling social media for the latest headline, is to simply stop. Limit your news consumption to no more than 30 minutes per day. I’d even advise against watching certain news programs known to bombard us with negative and inflammatory commentary and/or imagery. I’d suggest searching for the top stories, reading up on what’s currently relevant, and keeping it moving. Let’s get back to making receiving our “news” more about getting the facts and less about getting emotional. Those hanging onto every news flash might just “flash out” one day and end up in mental breakdown. Don’t ride so hard for organizations like CNN and Fox News that you become a victim of your own negative emotions. The loss of our sanity is “breaking” news that all of us can live without.
“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”