I remember my grandfather watching the evening news every night as some kind of soothing nightcap. It wasn’t long after the late local news that he would go to bed and that would be the end of his day. Whenever she wasn’t working the early morning shift, the tradition of watching the late evening news continued with my mother. The tradition of ending the day with a douse of international and national reality stayed with me, that was until it began to affect my health.
As adulthood grabbed hold of me, the responsibilities of saving enough for retirement, watching my debt levels and mortgage rates rumored to be climbing all gripped me like a tightening noose. Add on top of that the international hostilities and countless stories of hatred and greed being reported from around the world, I became frantic.
I can still remember a night where one of the stories of the night was about the fact that many Canadians were not saving enough for retirement. They added figures and realities that struck a major chord within me. I was near sleep, but after the numbers began to bounce around inside my head, my mind instantly shifted right into anxiety mode. Frankly, I wasn’t saving enough for retirement. How am I going to eat when I retire?
It felt as if I had eaten an entire bag of coffee beans, my brain was racing a mile-a-minute and my eyes -while still tired- were starting to burn from being kept open for too long. I literally didn’t sleep that night. A news broadcast that began at 11pm kept me awake until the next morning when I had to get out of bed to work. My anxiety and I pulled an all-nighter.
My contempt for mainstream news began to grow ever since that night. As I began to become more aware of the negative spins and attention-grabbing storylines, I started to feel duped. I began to question myself: Is my worldview shaped by the delivery of this news channel? It didn’t take long to realize that it was a resounding, YES!
I had had enough, and about two years ago I decided to cut the cable (to stop the breaking news and targeted advertising), unfollow all Twitter and Facebook news feeds and bury my head into the proverbial sand. It didn’t take long before I could feel my psyche improve and my worldview became my own. It was being formed by my experiences and not the ones that I saw on TV. I was no longer anxious about my state in life and external forces that I had absolutely no control over.
I’ll admit, my knowledge of current events have taken a significant nose-dive since I stopped paying attention. I am no longer learned in political or religious movements. When a conversation breaks out about what Donald Trump said or what China is doing to our planet, I am oblivious. Some may say that I am just another sheep in the herd, fair enough. But what does knowing something mean if you don’t take real action? Blaming and complaining is not action, it is a reaction. It doesn’t matter what opinion I have on Donald Trump or the Chinese machine, I have absolutely no control over either of them. Me being in the “know” matters nothing.
All I can control is my reaction to life, not to the events that happen within it.
The news is old, it is an event in the past that has been torn apart and reassembled by someone else into a story. It, to some extent, fiction. Depending on the angle of the story being presented to us, we become anxious, dubious, angry and hopeless. News that is being told to you in the third person is meant to keep you blaming the other guy and obedient to the storyteller.
Our minds are just not meant to handle the knowledge that doesn’t come from our field of view, let alone something on the other side of the planet. Even though we may not realize it, each time we hear about something happening a few thousand miles away, we become powerless and hopeless to make a change. The only difference we can make is the dream that forms from our experience that we turn into action.
The news, by its design, is meant to keep us from chasing the dream. I often wonder how many dreams my grandfather stopped chasing because he was stuck watching the evening news or how many anxious nights he spent wondering what more he could do.