Your mind is just waiting to be programmed and the scary part is that if you don’t do it, someone else will. This is part of why I made the decision to stop consuming most news a while back. I haven’t reflected on it much since I made this change, but it’s been hugely beneficial.
One day while skimming through the news, I noticed that when I would read negative or horrible headlines, I would feel worse. I started realizing that even just quickly skimming these negative headlines was having negative effects on my mood. Unfortunately, news agencies and other clickbaiters like to use that sort of shock and negativity to elicit engagement. Now it scares me a little because I don’t think of myself as being particularly susceptible to those sort of manipulations. But at a certain level, I guess we’re all vulnerable. There are billion dollar corporations fighting for our attention. They’re spending billions of dollars funding research and hiring psychology graduates for the specific purpose of learning how they can make people even more addicted, more willing to engage, and more dependent on them and their products. By any means.
Now I’m not just bringing this up to incite fear. I think that by illuminating the forces we’re working against and the angle they’re coming from, we can be better prepared to navigate this world. These negative trigger abusers are set on sucking up our precious time and attention, so I have three tips to help combat that:
- Acknowledge and understand what’s happening. Accept that your mind will be programmed by someone. And that someone might as well be you. So the way to combat the programming isn’t to gain some impenetrable iron mind. That just ain’t happening. What you can do however is try to program it yourself. Talk to yourself. Say the things matters to you. Write down your goals and values. Focus on them and how you’re going to progress. Set yourself up for greatness.
- Identify and avoid negative trigger abusers. For me, it was the news. Now I still see/hear a decent amount of news even though I try to avoid it. And to me, that’s totally fine. The amount that I’ve been able to cut out has made a world of difference. The way I see it, if something’s that important, I’m sure I’ll hear about it within an hour of waking up whether I want to or not. But just to clarify, I’m not suggesting that we avoid everything that triggers negative emotions. Experiencing negative emotions is how we grow and learn to deal with difficult situations. They’re an important part of life. But there’s a difference between experiencing them on our terms and being bombarded by them unwittingly. We need to face negative emotions head on is because beyond them often stands growth. Negative trigger abusers, however, can be like walking down a tunnel with shameless attention grabbing every which way you turn. Having your emotions manipulated by people willing to say anything to get you to click on their link. Then turning around and doing it again! We’ve been programmed to consume an unhealthy amount of news. They may be lies. They may be exaggerations. They may be speculations with no basis in reality. They may be sad, disturbing, or sickening. But it doesn’t matter. Some of these companies are completely unethical and don’t care how it makes you feel or what it does to you, they’re just trying to get you to click. Remember that.
- Take responsibility for your attention and choose what you subject it to. Like I said at the beginning, I know that news has a negative effect on me. So I make a conscious effort to avoid it which in turn has a positive effect on my life. It’s a simple formula. It just takes a little digging. If you’re struggling with negativity, mood swings, attitude problems, etc, take a step back and try to figure out what’s causing it. Perhaps you can track it to a voluntary behavior and cut a big source of a negativity out of your life with minimum downside.
So I know I’ve been trashing on the news a lot this post, so I’d like to clarify some things. For starters, I do believe that the news and staying informed is valuable. But that’s not what most news is these days. A great example in recent days is the coronavirus. Do I think that it’s good to know about it? Of course. Do I think that doing some research and trying to understand it better is sensible? Sure. But where’s the line? At what point is it too much? Let’s say you end up watching or reading about it for 15 minutes every day since coverage started. That was around January 19th. At this point, that would be almost 10 hours of coverage! Ten hours of your precious time listening to interviews and experts and researchers and all sorts of stuff that you quite frankly don’t need to hear about. It’s complete overkill. To me, this is one of the major issues with the 24 hour news cycle. They need content. They want views. They are shameless. They twist facts and promote fear. I’m sure there are tons of good people who work in the industry too, I don’t blame them. It’s just an unfortunate byproduct of the system we’ve created.
As much as I disagree with what a lot of these organizations are doing, I get it. They’re doing what they have to survive and that’s just the way of the world. There are more money and resources being spent than ever before to attract our attention and manipulate our emotions.
So the onus is on us.
Take full responsibility for yourself, your attention, and your life.