The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
I used to watch the news every day. Even when I went to university, I wanted to be informed. I found that watching the news did more harm than good. Not only did it make me sad, but it was pushing a biased narrative into my brain space. It took an effort to watch the news as I was constantly picking apart what I was being told to ensure that I was being given information and not opinions. In no way, shape or form am I suggesting that you should not want to be informed. However, the media landscape has dramatically changed over the years, and the current way in which we receive media is not healthy. If you have ever watched the news and it left you feeling uneasy, guilty and hopeless, you are not alone. I am a big fan of being informed, understanding what is going on in the world and wanting to be a good citizen. That being said, the news given to us is biased no matter the platform and the culture around news and media are very toxic.
We as a people have become increasingly divided. Anyone with a differing opinion is cancelled from one’s life. I am not saying that you should not set boundaries if something makes you uncomfortable. I am saying that the media has created a divide. It has pushed people further off into the left and right wings of the political spectrum. So much so that news outlets are increasingly biased. It seems as though there are more extremists out there than there actually are. Extremists make headlines. It makes us feel unsafe when the population and opinions that are reported do not make up the majority of the population. They are just the opinions that are inflammatory enough to keep people watching. The longer you watch, the more a news outlet can charge for advertisements. This makes it so we get fed information designed to make us angry and keep watching. This seems to be the only option for news outlets to survive within our current system.
This doesn’t just apply to TV news but all media platforms. They are slaves to the advertisement industry, and as media becomes free to us as a people, the cost needs to be made up. As such, the articles with the most clicks, shares and likes get propelled into the media more frequently. More polarizing stories are pushed to the top of timelines and explore pages. It is not the journalists’ fault, nor our own fault. There is a design flaw in the way we receive news. If we stopped watching the news that was aggravating, the reports we get would look different. We shape what we see. That being said, we are human. We are going to click on headlines that are enticing to us therefore we cannot blame ourselves. Rather, the system the news and media outlets abide by is not created with our best interest in mind. There is no regulation on the internet or what we consume. As such, the wild west that is the internet is designed to meet you with confirmation bias and aggravating stories. This is designed to validate our perspectives, not inform us accurately. Suppose you are looking for a concrete example of how the news is exploited. In that case, you need not look further than the most recent Facebook scandal.
Furthermore, the news is known to make people sad. Many people suggest stopping watching the news to be happier in your daily lives. This is because we consistently get bad news. The phrase “if it bleeds, it leads” has become “bloody bloody murder 24/7.” When you are exposed to such negativity and are shown problems that are beyond your control on a daily basis, it can make you feel helpless. The news we are shown is reporting problems that are so far beyond our control that it causes paralysis and then the guilt sets in. However, by not watching the news, we feel as though we are not doing our part. That we are not being helpful as we are remaining ignorant. The onus to fix these problems should not be placed on the individual person. However, that is how the news can come across when you are shown problems that seemingly no one can solve. There is also the guilt that comes from social media. Activist groups often will blame people for remaining ignorant. A valid claim, I may add. However, the velocity with which they spread this message can cause people to feel guilty for taking time for their mental health. Hearing stories that are heart-wrenching may make you less ignorant, but if you are paralyzed by this news, you are not of any help. Furthermore, if you feel guilty or sad reading those messages, they probably weren’t meant for you. That bullying tactic is meant to reach and change the minds of people more stubborn.
All in all, watching the news is not good for you. People often say that you should choose three things to care about. Three things should be your focus, and every other movement, problem, issue that is talked about in the news should not take up your brain space. You can acknowledge that they are issues, that they are important issues, but no one person can be concerned with every issue all the time. You are more valuable if you focus on a couple of issues and follow those stories. I will add, you shouldn’t dismiss different issues as they may be important to other people, but respect yourself, your brain space and your mental health. If you find that the news and media leave you feeling empty, anxious and despondent, you really should consider stepping back from consuming it. I promise you are not missing out.