Tuesday, June 30, 2009

30 Day Experiment: Media Fast

I haven’t shared a thirty day experiment in awhile. My latest is in relation to selling my tv. I have essentially been on a media fast for the last month and a half or two months. I don’t watch any news, read newspapers, or visit news websites. Several blogs that I read have recommended the habit and so I gave it a try.

Originally, I thought I would become somewhat ignorant, but that hasn’t really been the case. What has happened is that I have developed a filter for all the stuff that doesn’t matter. That doesn’t affect my life. For example there have been a few plane crashes over the last few months. I am really sorry for the loss of the families, but if I look at how this crash is going to affect me the list isn’t very long. I’m not going to stop flying. I’m not going to think that the airline that crashed is less safe and take another. I’m not going to travel to the crash site and try to help. So what is the only thing that reading about this site could introduce to me? Worry, sadness, negativity, undue concern? In all honesty I don’t think that reading would necessarily cause those feelings in me; the point is that what good comes from knowing the story? I can’t think of anything. I only know about the fact that plane crashes occurred because of coworkers and internet message boards (texags.com). This is my filter. I didn’t hear the details I just saw a blip about it. That’s all I needed to know and maybe slightly more than I wanted to know.

Let’s visit another topic. What about the riots in Iran. My initial reaction upon hearing it (saw a WSJ front page as I walked by) was interest. I wanted to know more. My initial plan in fact was to start reading lots of articles on the subject. And then I thought about it. How does the research serve me? If I read about it and think it’s going to get really bad. I may form an opinion on if the US should get involved. My opinion won’t affect anything. I won’t get angry enough to join a protest. I won’t write a Congressman about it. I won’t travel to Iran to try and help. You won’t see me in my backyard building a nuclear fallout shelter because I fear nuclear war.

Let’s look at some concerns:

Being in the Loop
Most people fear not being in the loop when it comes to what’s going on in the world around us. I haven’t watched news in 2 months and yet I know a little about the biggest topics. In fact, if someone brings it up in conversation they enjoy telling me the details. By asking them questions it actually improves our interaction and they leave the conversation in a better mood. I haven’t found this a problem at all.

Being Prepared
A lot of people want to be prepared for what’s coming next. This is especially true in tax/policy issues that arise in the government. At first I was very much on this boat, but really new policies have very little individual impact. Let’s say my tax rate was to go up 3%. That would definitely be unfortunate, but I’m not going to be broke. I’d find out about it from my peers well before it affected me (tax laws usually go into affect for the fiscal year after they are implemented). If the policy never gets passed then all the better.

For some people this is their hobby. They love to get buried in the news. If this is you then you are in a different boat. Learning about these issues makes you excited and you’re interested in the subjects. Though if you find yourself getting angry or outraged ask yourself if these feelings are really worth the enjoyment.

What if you logged on to cnn and the headline was “Woman in Seattle gives all she has raising 8 adopted kids from unfortunate circumstances. All 8 will be in college this fall”. You scanned for other stories, “Man in Ohio donates 40,000 hours of time rebuilding his community”, “Through your gifts a tribe in Kenya was given 3,000 mosquito nets to prevent malaria”. How would your attitude change if 90% of what you heard was positive and only 10% was negative as opposed to vice versa. Would the world become a safer place? Would you feel happier? There are thousands of stories like my fake stories above going on everyday. The news networks know that fear and anger are a much more potent force behind selling papers. Do you really want to let capitalism shape how you view the world?

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