Turning Away from News to Breathe Easier

by Michael Drew on September 19, 2016

Michael Drew · Technology · September 19, 2016

Pendulum in Action, WE Cycle, news to breathe easierIn this now-contentious turn of the WE Cycle – a cycle that began in 2003 – people are beginning to care less about working together and more about castigating others for not thinking as they think they should be thinking. In other words – witch hunts are cropping up. You’ve seen it yourself as indignation follows indignation about someone who supposedly transgresses simply by speaking in a way that others don’t wish.

One way to combat this is to ignore the news. Not to become a shut-in or hermit, but to hold yourself apart from the constant barrage of negative that constitutes news.

Perhaps the first thing might be to turn off cable television and rely on the occasional catch-up through other means to see what’s been happening, rather than to immerse yourself in who’s up, who’s down, the latest polls, the current outrage, new shocks, lingering scandals, hateful words and endless tropes about whatever’s going wrong in the world and our country.

You can find that always on cable news. And, according to a Pew Research Study, newspapers continue to decline in daily circulation, but cable television is rising, by as much as 8% year to year. Even local television news is losing viewers, while for some reason people are watching more and more of cable news.

We really should be watching less (unless it involves good television in our current golden age of fiction). You might tell yourself that you don’t believe everything you see, but the fact is that if you subject yourself to a constant barrage of hate speech and outrage, you’re going to be outraged yourself. And do you really want to be? Or do you wish to be informed?

You’re not necessarily informed by watching television. You’re not uninformed if you don’t look at news for a few days. Things have a way of seeping into one’s consciousness. As print newspapers navigate the difficult transition to digital models (a problem for newspapers is that they earn less advertising revenue online than in print), cable news, which has to fill hours of air time, is taking the place as the source of our information about what’s happening. Little matter if that information is correct or not: it’s there to be watched and absorbed.

And what’s happening is a sharpening of our knives as we look for victims for our outrage.

But there’s hope, as Pew notes in its article about its survey findings: One the one hand, ” The contentious presidential primary helped spur cable prime time viewership 8% above 2014 levels, but those audience gains followed a year of declines across the board in 2014.” But on the other hand: “…a 2015 Pew Research Center survey suggests that as many as one-in-seven Americans have turned away from cable or satellite TV subscriptions.”

The article goes on to say that such cord-cutting could lead to greater reliance on social media for news and with it, the possibility that more and more people will exist in a vacuum of news based on what they “like” according to their news feeds.

The remedy, if one exists, for our current turn in the social cycle, might be to look at a variety of news feeds that give different points of view, in a reasonable way, and arrive at your own conclusions. Difficult, I know, when it’s easier to turn on the TV and let misinformation wash over you. But that simply leads to more of the same. And we certainly don’t want things to get worse, do we?

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