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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. Iโ€™m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything weโ€™ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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February 24 2011

How the News Impacts Your Health (and What You Can Do About It)

By Mark Sisson
114 Comments

Like everyone, I?ve had ample opportunity in my life to sit in waiting rooms. In the last several, however, I?ve noticed a trend that admittedly gets under my skin: the ubiquity of television news ? and the negative events it routinely emphasizes. It?s been part of the airport scene forever now, it seems, but lately I?ve come across it in more restaurants and even in clinic waiting rooms. (Nothing beats watching multiple cycles of the latest grisly murder story as you eat your lunch or are waiting in agony for a doctor, eh?) In some respects, I appreciate having more than the morning paper or the 5 o?clock newscast if there?s a story I?d like to follow. With cable news and the Internet, we can assuredly keep on all the latest ? what our go-to media sources choose to report of it anyway? 24/7. More than ever, we can get every detail, every commentary, every image associated with a given story. We can spend an entire day fixated on an event. We can watch a footage segment a hundred times if we please. Do we pay for this need to know, however? Does news exposure ? specifically its heavy, menacing, and disturbing stories ? have an impact on our personal well-being? What does it mean to have looming tales of death and destruction so frequently playing in our periphery? What happens to the human psyche (and body) when they?re fed a steady diet of unsettling news bulletins?

We have friends who recently had their first child. Over dinner a few weeks ago, the new mother joked that she?s timed the local news perfectly to catch the nightly ?feel-good? feature story and weather while avoiding the initial doom and gloom reports. ?Maybe it?s just hormones,? she explained, ?but the news just throws me off my emotional equilibrium in a different way now. It doesn?t feel healthy to immerse myself in the worst of the world and human nature every night. I just want to be present without all the bad stuff for a while.? I can identify with her frustration. It seems like the news is too often a parade of muck and mayhem. The stories with the most shock value win, however demoralizing they are. (And then there are the obnoxious production effects: flashing red ?alerts,? multiple streaming tickers, menacing musical bytes.) These days it?s hard to walk away from a newscast or even a newspaper without feeling like you need a shower ? or at least an energy adjustment.

There?s substance to be found of course ? information relevant to personal and civic life. Even then, the endless news cycling of troubling events and violent images (e.g. war, famine, environmental destruction, bloody uprisings, etc.) leave an imprint that often disheartens more than it informs. As I sat in an airport boarding terminal recently, I saw a mother try to keep her young sons distracted from CNN?s images of the Egyptian revolution and the initial military response. Was it important news? Yes, but that doesn?t mean everyone needs to see it every waking minute. (And how about the question of exposing young children to these reports?) I don’t know about you, but I don’t need more things to worry about when I’m traveling.

The power of negative news isn?t about political philosophies or cultural wars. We?re human, it?s true, and suffering is an inevitable part of the human condition. Information can help us understand our world and inspire us to work toward constructive change. Our constant access to all that ails, however, comes with genuine mental and physical health costs. Although we might think we don?t participate in media representation of disturbing news, research tells us otherwise. A study of 89 people who were shown footage of four traumatic events showed that nearly 20% reported symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the viewings. (Frequency of exposure was a factor in participants? emotional reactions.) As the head of the study explained, ??Acts of violence erode our sense of security and create intense feelings of anger, fear and helplessness. Watching these events and feeling the anguish of those who are directly experiencing them can impact on a certain percentage of individuals causing longer lasting effects.? A meta-analysis of 23 research studies (PDF) focused on terrorism related media revealed a similar correlation with PTSD.

It may not be enough to simply walk away from the television either. A study of undergraduate students showed that simple distraction wasn?t enough to erase the lingering anxiety and mood disturbance induced by a 15-minute random newscast. Need any good news, anyone? Although the group that was exposed to an unrelated lecture (distraction strategy) following the news excerpt didn?t return to baseline mood measures, the group that participated in a 15-minute progressive relaxation exercise afterward did. (What does it say when we need relaxation activities to recover our equilibrium after a mere 15 minutes of a news broadcast? Maybe that?s not such good news.)

The United States Department of Veteran Affairs reports that American adults spent an average of eight hours watching news reports in the days following the Sept. 11th attacks. The average for young children was three hours. The more footage adults and children watched, the higher stress levels they reported. The Oklahoma City bombing coverage elicited similar responses in viewers.

It?s a new world we live in, where we?re privy to every new wrinkle of death and destruction that rains down in some corner of the world. How do we process all of it? Can we? How can we prioritize our well-being while still remaining informed?

In an interesting article from a few years back, one therapist criticizes the modern practice of psychotherapy as disconnected from our experience of the world?s pain, the ?dark emotions? that naturally arise from our human empathy in response to the tragedy and destruction we witness in the world around us. It?s an intriguing point. Until recent times, our context for experiencing the world and empathizing with those around us was very limited ? a tribe, a town. Our modern media and the ?connected world? hand us each, in some regards, the fate of Atlas. In Grok?s day, he could effectively act on the threats to his community, heal beyond its contained tragedies. In our day, the stakes are much higher and the implied community much broader. The peril and calamity of an entire global society can stretch the emotional dimensions of our humanity past their coping limits.

Among her suggestions is the need to accept and make peace with the ?inevitable pain of being alive and being humanly connected to others.? Nonetheless, she explains, we must also bring a protective consciousness to our interaction with the world, ?cultivating a deep awareness of emotions as in-the-body energies, and of the thoughts that both trigger and subdue them.?

In the end, the question remains: is there a way to be informed in a meaningful, deeper sense while not immersing ourselves in the constant barrage of bad news? While we all have the power to turn off or throw out the TV or otherwise unplug, there?s got to be a healthier middle ground between sticking your head in the sand and putting yourself in the middle of every human tragedy. What information truly obliges our attention for the sake of self-improvement and social action and what information simply constitutes unnecessary ? even cruel ? emotional clutter?

C. John Sommerville, author of How the News Makes Us Dumb: the Death of Wisdom in an Information Society, notes that our constant exposure to endless threads of instantaneous, disassociated ?news? without the natural filters of time and context has the power to leave us overwhelmed and still lacking in larger perspective. We?d do better, he suggests, spending less time staying on top of each trivial update and devoting more time to discussing, reflecting, and thoughtfully acting on the major issues and events that we feel require our attention.

Finally, there?s the larger issue of realigning perspective. There?s power ? and truth ? living in the here and now. The relative peace of this moment for one person is as genuine and meaningful as the tragedy befalling another. The world, we must remember, is more than the sum of its crises.

Share what you believe about the intersection of an informed and healthy life. I?ll look forward to reading your thoughts.

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114 thoughts on “How the News Impacts Your Health (and What You Can Do About It)”

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  1. Maybe I’m wrong here but, local TV is really becoming the horse and buggy as far as news goes.

    Who tunes in at 5 pm anymore when you can just click on an internet news source at any time of the day.

    Plus, if it’s depressing, you can just click to this site, or any other positive healthy internet source, and get cheered up.

    Being too connected to the media is “bad news” for me.

    I was once a depressed, stressed, fat local TV news producer.

  2. Not all news is the same. The emotional effect of reading about a violent event in the New York Times would seem less than seeing graphic footage of the same event on TV news.

    Perhaps good advice is to ditch the TV and switch to reading the newspaper?

  3. I don’t watch TV news anymore. I might watch an opinion show for entertainment from time to time. The news shows are just too annoying, and you can’t control what gets delivered. On the other hand I use my iPad to troll the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and some of the news magazine sites to get the news that is of interest to me. So while I’m aware of what is going on in the world (at least from a headline level), I don’t have to subject myself to news stories that are depressing unless I choose to do so. I find I’m a much happier and optimistic person when I’m not plugged in to current events.

    1. i read to the bottom of the comments before replying myself, and it’s interesting how much most of us agree. but i couldn’t resist putting in my two-cents-worth about how ignorant the people delivering the news seem to be! ever count the grammatical mistakes made by the newscasters? ๐Ÿ˜€ my mother keeps the television on a good part of the day — i don’t know how she can stand the constant inane bleating.

  4. I try and follow the news daily, but when it comes to destructive news I only stay at the headlines, as I’ve always felt it uncomfortable to hear about horrible stories. This way it’s possible to stay on top of what’s going on (which I think is important) and not suffer yourself because of it.

    Pretty much agree with the post completely!

  5. last year my friend noticed that their kid started crying too much since they were watching too much TV. after they totally turned off the TV when the kid was around, he stopped crying..learn from kid, never watch TV..read books..work on puzzless..do paintings..music or take a walk..play with your kid…cook..sing..so much to do instead of watching TV and way much more fun. live like modern caveman in your modern caves…you have to deserve the food before you eat and once you fight for it and eat , you deserve the rest..as simple as it is ..

  6. We ditched TV 7 years ago and we don’t miss it. Now when I watch news at other people’s house I laugh at how bad it is. The ridiculous way they say it in that same tone.
    It IS depressing too. Now intead of just dealing with local bad news, we are bombarded with every bad thing that is happening in the entire world and it’s just overwhelming. I have to take days off from the internet for that very reason, just to detox from all the bad news. Even reading people’s comments on message boards is depressing because of how nasty and mean-spirited they can be. My spouse really only reads the paper for news and it’s amazing how less stressed he is because he’s just unaware of what is going on unless he hears it on the radio or reads it in the paper.

  7. The kebab restaurant we went to yesterday was playing the SportsCenter mascot bloopers. So I got to laugh AND eat grilled meat. Awesome.

  8. A few months ago I had to drive my boyfriend home from an appointment for oral surgery. They had the news on, which I found highly irritating. I always bring a book with me to pass the time and I couldn’t read, I kept getting sucked in, either due to the way it’s presented or just the given topic. Fortunately there was a tree outside where I could sit and read in peace. Perhaps I notice it more, as I rarely ever watch TV, news or otherwise, and haven’t really ever much.

    When I lived overseas the news would sometimes be on in the background while making dinner, but it was a lot less intrusive. US news presentation tends to be brash and sensationalist. Although I do get plenty of information online I can control the source, the volume, the content as well as the commercials, another irritating factor.

    I have no problem with chucking the TV, or what many people used to do, keeping it in a console so it wasn’t the center of family life.

  9. Don’t watch the news. Don’t read the newspaper, except for the weather and some sports. Don’t read internet news. Ever since I was in Vietnam and would read fictitious accounts of operations I was involved in. News agencies lie. It’s called “yellow journalism”.

  10. I stopped watching/reading the news when I was pregnant. The two aren’t compatible.

    And when 9/11 happened I lived in a little toddler bubble barely aware of what was going on outside. It was too difficult to do my job otherwise.

    I do feel though, I am rather ignorant of what is happening in the world. But my stress levels and outlook are the healthier for it.

  11. Very good post, Mark.

    You know, of all things, I would think that this is one of the biggest differences between our world and Grok’s. Grok’s world view must have been very narrow. He was generally focused on staying alive and protecting/supporting his family.

    I’m not saying we should neglect everything around us, but I do think that we’re happier when we focus on our own families and work. In fact, I’d argue that a lot of emotional problems in our modern world come about because of our tendency to compare ourselves to people and situations that we personally never interact with at all.

    Back in Grok’s day, people died tragically all the time — by falling off cliffs, through deadly interactions with animals, etc. — but it just wasn’t a concern of Grok’s. He didn’t have anyone telling him about the person a few miles down the road who was devoured by a saber-toothed tiger. It didn’t concern him, and he didn’t know about it, so he didn’t worry about it.

    I guess the lesson is to focus on today, focus on your work, focus on your loved ones. Seems that’s what human brains and emotions evolved to do.

    1. Wow Hansel, you nailed it…perfectly….”focus on today, focus on your work, focus on your loved ones….” Very wise post, thank you!!! Cable news shows have disrupted my life,along with the “local news”, that is nothing more than “local murders/suicides/missing persons/abandoned kids, etc., “. Thanks for a meaningful, thoughtful post! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I do not enjoy watching the news on TV. I do enjoy reading the news online. I can filter reading the news much easier than I can with visual and audio stimulation. Reading information online is a form of mental exploration. For me it’s a way to pass time at work at a desk. Lately I have found that I am happier when I explore for new music than when I explore for political concepts/realities. Thanks for the post!

  13. This is why I killed my television 3 years ago and have not once looked back. And amazingly, I have more time for so many real, actual, productive, great things.

    Do it people. Kill the TV.

  14. Well Don Henley had it right all the way back in 1982… I remember when I was a kid in the 70’s that someone did a study saying more people were worried about violent crime and particularly kidnapping of their children, it turned out that the FBI stats at the time said the risk was the same or lower than 30 years prior but that people’s fears were amplified by local and national TV news. When I had kids of my own about a decade ago I did some research into the FBI stats and guess what, they haven’t changed much in the last 30 years, so effectively no change in 60 years but the instant reporting and obsessive focus make a lot of people worried needlessly…

    We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who
    comes on at five
    She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam
    in her eye
    It’s interesting when people die-
    Give us dirty laundry

    When it’s said and done we haven’t told you a thing
    We all know that Crap is King

    1. Is the head dead yet?

      I have to agree with you. My boyfriend was in broadcasting for 40 years and he loves that song because in his experience “it’s true”.

      I myself hate to watch the news. Everyone seems so phony and the stories seem irrelevant for the most part. Every time the news comes on it’s the same old thing: An apartment caught fire, a kid’s gone missing, somebody got shot, and some politician is corrupt (of course they are…they’re politicians). If you watch it just one day, you’ll get the gist of it for the rest of the month.

  15. I have a TV behind me at work playing CNN all day! It’s a bit more news than I like, but I’m at least happy it’s not Fox ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I remember 8 years ago though, there was all this scary stuff on the news, telling us to buy plastic sheeting to seal up our homes from a biological attack, etc. I felt really freaked out by all of it, and it was all for nothing. It’s definitely tough to stay informed without feeling like you have to live in fear!

  16. Good post. As a news junkie, the idea of our minds not being able to process all the pain and suffering we can expose ourselves to has weighed on me for quite awhile. I’ll have to borrow your line about Atlas, that’s exactly how I feel sometimes. Empathy is a double-edged sword.

  17. I love this topic! We haven’t watched T.V. in years. Well, I lied, I think we rented maybe a handful of movies during that time. The first time I noticed how TV affected me was when I couldn’t fall asleep after an ER one time. I started to listen to my body and what it really craved was peace and quiet at night. The news doesn’t do anything for me except make me very anxious and on edge!

    Sometimes I think I am like an Ostrich with it’s head in the sand, but I am a much happier and saner person. I am in control of the things that I can really control, those things that are important to me, keeping my family well fed, healthy and safe.

    I do get my news online and through twitter, I just usually browse the headlines, and if it doesn’t involve me, I pay no attention to it! I am much happier and freer for it. Keep up the great posts!

  18. Great post!

    I don’t think it’s just the news, but as commenters above mentioned, also the WAY news is presented. Visual, aural and linguistic rhetoric affects us just as much as the all-too-often negative content of news shows. It’s in the movies and the television shows we watch as much as it’s in the news…and while some might argue that the ethics of being well-informed makes the news more of a sticky-wicket, I would encourage all of us to take the time to gauge the TOTAL emotional effect of all the media we consume.

    I have the same reaction to negative news as I do to watching too much CSI or other crime-type shows.

    Back when I was in grad school and working full-time, there were nights that all I wanted to do was veg in front of the tv. I became a die-hard Law & Order addict, and it took me a while to make the connection between sleeping poorly and general malaise after an evening of watching a run of L&O. Then, when L&O (the original) got pulled, I started supplementing (like all good addicts!) with CSI, or Criminal Minds. Those shows were even worse in terms of using disturbing imagery, and ramping up the emotional effect of the violence with music, etc.. My sleeping issues got worse. I finally cut myself off, and haven’t been able to go back, because the effects are too marked. Also, I get mad at the techniques employed to really put the emotional screws to the viewer.

    Don’t even get me started on the emotional effects of watching reality television. I also find that an energy/emotion cesspool that, like sugar, is all too easy to get hooked on!

    Anyway, coming back to my point, I love watching the news, and like to stay well-informed. At the same time, I’m learning to be sensitive to emotional cues of overload. For me, I would rather pass on the negative “entertainment” media (i.e. crime shows) and take what I can of the news. I guess you could call it emotionally-balanced media, lol.

  19. I think it’s normal to feel discouraged about the state of the world, but the things you are describing are not normal responses.

    The problem is not the news shows, but that most people don’t think for themselves.

    Anyone even remotely intelligent will not watch mainsteam news at all if it’s avoidable. He’ll get his facts from more objective sources. If necessary, he is quite able to tune out the irrelevancies, hype, melodrama and cheesy anchors of mainstream news.

    If a man feels “helplessness” after watching a news program, it’s because he knows on some level that he is using it as a substitute for actual thought.

    It’s not a secret that most people walk around with a low level of anxiety, because they have defaulted on the responsibility of independent thought. By watching news programs, it makes their anxiety seem “normal” and feeds into their escape from reality.

    In other words, the news show confirms their view of reality: an unintelligible, chaotic mess with disaster looming on the horizon.

  20. News is much like food.

    If you consume a lot of “junk news” laden with added emotion but with little intelligent content, your mental health may suffer. However, if you consume “real news” with insight and analysis that engages your brain, it will make you more aware of our world, and broaden your mind.

  21. I try to get the update only once on any new big story. Watching after that gets repetitive and boring even when they get new “expert” commentators rehasing the same stuff. Sometimes it’s good to view news from different sources like BBC or Al Jazera that are not so USA centric to see what else is happening in the world besides the big over-covered US story.

  22. Iv’e given up reading the papers and watching the TV especially TV now.. the depressing news far outweighs the good stories.
    But I still need to release my chains from the computer ( yes Facebook) and my cell phone and I will be good to go!
    Raymond

    1. I quit Facebook several months back. I don’t miss it one bit and am certainly better off without.

      ‘Facebook’ actually comes up as a spelling error on MDA.

      I like that. Lol

  23. Nice post Mark. I can’t remember the last time I watched the news. Mostly what I watch these days are Yo Gabba Gabba (love Jack Black’s guest appearance!) or the Upside Down Show. Comes with the territory of having young children in the house. The Upside Down Show, in particular, will lift anyone’s mood!

  24. Great post, Mark.
    I gave up on TV news a long time ago. Now I just follow the BBC on the net. That way, if I am interested in a subject I can click on that headline and learn more but it is not the steady barrage of news coming AT you as is the case with TV.

    I agree about the community becoming larger. I sat there the other night with tears running down my face watching the footage from ChristChurch. There are a lot of Kiwis here on the forums who I consider to be my e-friends but there was absolutely nothing I could do about what I was seeing. I think it’s that helplessness that is the worst. If Grok’s tribe mate was injured or died at least he could be there to help or console. In the modern world we get all of the anguish but none of the human contact.

    1. Absolutely agreed, Robin!! I watch all the news about the chaos in the Middle East and I can’t help but to think World War III in the back of my head. No one wants to think or feel this way, but that’s what you get when CNN and their often times dramatic news coverage takes over the tube. It’s news that I may appreciate in some way, shape, or form. But is there anything that I can really do about it besides join a facebook group? I don’t think so ๐Ÿ™ I tend to get most of my news from twitter and the web now. It’s quick, relevant, and just about what anyone could really need, I think.

  25. Great Post Mark!

    I agree wholeheartedly with all the sentiments posted above and I have avoided watching news broadcasts for several years due to the emotional impact they were having on my health and wellbeing. The realisation was that if something big enough is happening in the World we will know regardless of whether we tune into a visual horror movie or not.

    I live in Australia and I would have to have been living in a cave in recent months to miss my friends and family discussing the impact of the Queensland Floods, Cyclone Yasi and the Earthquake that just devestated Christchurch. I get to keep up with current affairs without exposing myself to modern day jounalism that is delivered like they are just about to launch a blockbuster movie rather than death and destruction.

    Choice is the key here. The remote is in your hands:) (or in my household in my husbands!!)

  26. In my teenage years I went to see a lot of movies, some of them very violent. I was a very sensitive youngster and some of these films emotionally affected me and I believe hurt me. My parents also used television as a babysitter, so I had way more than my share of the boob tube.

    I no longer watch TV “news” – which is just “if it bleeds it leads” crap. I also don’t watch any of the news talk shows – the ones who masquerade as news analysis that are really just verbal fist fights designed to get the viewer riled up.

    None of it is news, none of it is journalism, none of it is worthy of my time.

    Is it harmful? Very much so.

    I also do not watch very violent films or TV anymore. The damage is done and I don’t need to expose myself to any more. That said, I am a sc-fi/fantasy gal and the cartoon violence of an Iron Man or Star Trek or even Matrix doesn’t affect me. I won’t go to any war movies or the ubiquitous “woman in peril” or “slasher” type of film. Many filmmakers use violence-porn in their films. It’s sickening.

    1. The same is true for sports nowadays. Just as sensation and faux-controversial, meant to argue both sides and get everyone riled up.

      1. Oh I so agree… I used to watch alot of horror movies, and now I can’t stand the thought…. I am traumatized for days afterwards if I do.

  27. this is very true. and it’s amazing how it works.

    with the Christchurch earthquake, I’ve been encouraging my students to avoid media. Just avoid it. Don’t read headlines, don’t look at images in particular. Why? because it makes them more distressed.

    instead, i suggest things that they can do — meditate and pray for the people; donate blood; put together care packages that can be delivered by the red cross and salvation army; and most importantly, take care of themselves.

    i don’t know how many are following this advice, but since the eq, we have only watched one video and read the occasional report that has come through FB when a friend is reporting in on their situation. but we have also avoided violent movies. through our “netflix” we have district 9 and doubt. i’m not interested in either right now because of handling the emotional situation of so many clients, practitioners, friends, and so on.

    i need peace and a break. so, we have gone silent on the “news” for right now.

  28. Ever notice how most news stations wrap up with a cute story after they’ve bombarded you with death and misery for 30 minutes? They’re aware of the psychology and don’t want to depress their viewers too much. Truth is there’s just as much good news out there, it’s just not worth reporting about from a ratings standpoint. Sadly, “Grandmother hit by car” makes a better headline than “Grandmother helped across street”.

    Want to stay in touch without having a minor case of post traumatic stress from all the depressing stories? First, don’t watch the news on TV. Scan the headlines on news.google.com and only read the full story if it catches your interest.

    In other words, choose your battles and remember folks, there are just as many brave, kind, heroic, generous, virtuous things happening out there all the time. They’re just not as good for ratings.

  29. We killed our TV several years ago, not only to rid ourselves of depressing news, but also the incessant pharmaceutical ads. I now realize I do not have to know every bad thing that happens in this world. I am in a simpler place that way and better able to deal with things that directly impact me and my family.

  30. Its funny you mention this. I watched the late news the other night for the first time in recent memory and I was amazed at how people subject their self to it every night.

    Its just crime, nutrition scare, local dirty restaurants, mean people that hate you, all this on repeat.

    Ill stick to just watching the NFL network, haha.

  31. We all know television is crap. Does anyone have an opinion on educating yourself on current events and worldly affairs in the general and its effect on the pysche?

    1. Yes, let’s talk about alternatives to TV news, which (I agree) is just terrible.

      I love Mark’s suggestion that “Weโ€™d do better … spending less time staying on top of each trivial update and devoting more time to discussing, reflecting, and thoughtfully acting on the major issues and events that we feel require our attention.” But how do we do that? What sources do Mark’s readers use?

      Like Matt, I enjoy the Economist. Where do others turn for intelligent news and commentary?

      1. I have read a lot of the comments above (and below), and this is the first inquisitive comment that, I think, focuses on how to manage our responsibility to ourselves in this modern society. Thank you for starting a conversation on what I think is the most important idea in Mark’s post.

        I agree with many that mondern news delivery can often be considered terrorism, invading our homes and disturbing our peace. But I disagree with the strategy of “burying our heads in the sand.” Though this strategy is a means of short-term gratification, we effectively create more problems for ourselves by ignoring the fact that we are responsible to our community (whether you define community as local, county, state, country, global).

        It is true, Grok did not have to deal with the dismal global politics, tragedy and disaster that we have to fathom after a hard day’s work, but Grok also did not benefit from having a community the size of the globe. Though we, the community here that follow Mark’s Daily Apple, attempt to live a lifestyle as primal as possible, we cannot ignore the fact that we are still active cogs in this larger community.

        Avoiding the trivial updates is a way to reduce the amount of unnecessary anxiety-ridden inundation that is piped through many news media platforms. Instead, we devote time to true discussion/action of events that we consider to be important to our ability to protect the healthy (and happy) function of ourselves, our family/friends, and larger communities.

        How do we do that? Where do we turn for intelligent news and commentary? What sources can we rely on? I follow the example of my forefathers (quite literally, my grandfather), and I wake up early, travel to my local coffee spot and cozy up to the other old-timers that are awaiting to discuss whatever it is that you want to discuss. Mind you, I am a 25-year old woman who is admittedly not very worldly. But I find that these discussions are the most informed. To sit down, open your mind to a topic, exchange sources and spirited debate, to solidify and/or question your beliefs, and to be informed of issues you might have known actually affect you… real news.

        And I walk away from these discussions relatively anxiety-free. I am often spurred to do more research, to look into options for my own personal action to affect an issue if I feel so inclined, etc.

        Being proactive and aware in your consumption of news and activity within your community, with the same effort that I approach a primal diet and primal activity, you are no longer a victim of it. Intelligent news is not found on the shelves (next to the Doritos and Twinkies), it is grown in local gardens of community knowledge.

  32. It’s very difficult to do but I force myself to not pay any attention to things I can’t do anything about. For the sake of my own sanity I just don’t watch the news anymore.

  33. And add to the emotional upset, the physiological and neurological changes that the technology is inflicting. How much ADD and ADHD is induced by technology? Anyone read The Shallows??

  34. I have not watched TV for about 5 years now. Best decision I ever made. I get my news when I want it from the internet.

  35. Watching the news for me is like watching a train wreck… over and over again. I noticed that if I watch it every day I end up feeling sad, angry, fearful, paranoid and forget all of the amazing things that happen in life daily. I do have a feed reader on my phone so once a week I usually just scan through all the headlines but try to avoid details unless it looks like a positive story.

  36. The modern media does thrive on the shock factor of every story. But as Mark puts it, there is still something to be said about being informed. We still need to know what’s happening in our world and what our elected officials are up. Speaking as an American, it is our right and duty to be informed and try to do our part.
    It can be quite stressful though. I cringe when I watch the latest reports and see what new war my govt. is planning to send me to.
    In the end however, the one thing that we ultimately have controll over is our bodies. I don’t know about anyone else but my Primal journey in life has felt so liberating.
    I hope everyone can take even a small role to be truly informed but still find piece in knowing that even if you can’t stop world hunger or war, you can change and mold yourself for the better.

  37. I agree that the news is depressing and sensationalized in America, but how can we initiate or be part of change? Knowledge is power and if we bury our heads to what is going on locally, nationally, and globally we won’t be able right the wrongs before it’s too late! The environmental outlook in the news often makes me cry, but it also causes me to look at what I can do to lessen my footprint and advocate for causes I believe in. I guess you could say I’m divided….TV is evil, good news reporting is necessary!

  38. I am much happier and much less stressed when I do not watch the news. Ignorance is bliss (at least in this scenario).

  39. This might be wierd, but I like to listen to, and read all kinds of things that can make me feel better (thats how I found this site), and Dr. Wayne Dyer once addressed a question in a book that he got from his readers about being happy that went something like “how can I feel happy in a world where so many bad things are happening?” and his responce was something like “you have to realize that you have been born into a world where all people are not going to have the same experiences. You have to deal with that and be as happy as YOU can be”. It put things in perspective for me. There’s always a war going on somewhere, and people are always suffering, but I’m just a regular guy who can’t fix all of these problems. All I can deal with is my own life. I felt better after thinking about it that way.
    sorry for the novel.

    1. Hi Wayne. Thank you for sharing. It was definitely worth it.
      I also read all kinds of things that can make me feel better.

  40. I watched a cable news station and the man on the screen was trying to scare me into buying gold at inflated prices.

  41. I have a growing number of friends/acquaintances who don’t have TV’s at all. Of course, this doesn’t stop you from checking the Internet, but maybe they’re onto something.

  42. I haven’t owned a TV for five years. I get plenty of “news” from either the Internet, local paper or the five minute news update on the radio at the top of the hour.

    Do I miss the TV? No.

    My kids have never had one so they don’t miss it. They may watch TV at a friends place, but that’s a treat.

    I’m certainly happy that I don’t get bombarded with 58minutes of doom, gloom, destruction (relevant to my part of the world right now (New Zealand)) and despair followed by 2 minutes of “feel good” to try and make up for the previous 58.

    Plus, I find we spend way more time outside or rolling around on the floor playing (isn’t there a rule about that?) than some families I’ve seen perched on seats in front of a box all in the one room but not communicating.

  43. We have a TV but it has no cable. In the past 10 months I have maybe watched six DVDs on it, four of which were foreign and part of my ‘language/cultural maintenance’–that is the extent of my usage. Housemates maybe an additional 10 DVDs.

    The ‘NEWS’ is really just the equivalent of junk mail or spam. I don’t waste any time on it. I don’t have the time to spare, let alone the desire!

  44. I think one of the next major movements on the internet is going to be making what you see in your news feeds and so on geo-relevant. That is, algorithms will prioritize local, urgent stories according to your location and interests. I would certainly welcome it. (Hmmm… I know a little about software… maybe I should get on that, eh?)

  45. 1. News is just entertainment. Bad entertainment at that.

    2. TV (and other mainstream media) are just junkfood for the mind and soul. Cut them out the way you cut out grains and sugar.

    3. Read Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death.

  46. Talk about bad news: even the news is bad for us.
    I hardly pay attention to news. I’ll read the odd story online if I find it interesting but I don’t watch news on TV and I don’t read the newspaper unless there’s nothing else to do. I used to think that I should keep up to date with world events and then after a while I realized I shouldn’t bother because I don’t fully trust the news, a lot of it is useless or boring, and I don’t care that much about what happens in the world.. sure I can empathize, but why waste time to find a reason to do so. The same things happen and get reported about constantly: mortar shells are fired, some terrorists are captured, some soldiers are killed, someone gets raped, someone gets murdered, a criminal gets caught, cops commit some sort of crime like shooting someone who was allegedly a threat but get away with it and are hailed as heroes as the special investigation unit takes over to perform an obvious coverup (or in rare cases they actually get prosecuted for something), inflation is increasing as is the cost of everything, especially houses, gas and electricity.. an election is happening – who’s going to win? (speculation goes on and on saying the same things over and over then someone wins and for the next week or two the new speculation is on why they won), useless celebrity information and rumours are told to us such as what dresses the stars wore to the awards.. that’s probably enough for now.

  47. I think it’s relevant to look into what kind of messages the television set is able to deliver, and how we unconsciously react being surrounded by television sets everywhere.

    My vote goes for throwing the TV out the window and go back to the radio. I have a book recommendation that goes deeply into what the television (and it’s messages) does to us.

    It’s a book written in the seventies called “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television” by Jerry Mander.

  48. Off topic but, why is this post not appearing on the rss feed?
    Keep on grokin’ and salutes from Protugal!

  49. I have a great quotation somewhere (can’t remember the source) about how an abundance of information creates a deficit of attention. I cut out the TV years ago (French TV is dreadful anyway) and now I read Le Monde, The New York Times and the Economist once a month. Seems to be enough. I don’t feel like a total idiot when someone starts a conversation about current events but I’m just enough behind the times that I can ask the person I’m talking to to bring me up to speed. ๐Ÿ™‚

  50. I do not watch the news, for the exact reason described above. I choose which medium brings me information, and then Ichoose again which news to read within that medium.

    To me,I do not have the emotional bandwidth to deal with horror on a global scale. I don’t even want to try.

    KILL YOUR TELEVISION…The medium is the message

  51. I’m a dedicated new junkie and I’ve been aware of the need to kick the habit for some time.

    Unfortunately, giving up the news has been about as hard as giving up the sugars I’m addicted to.

  52. I just don’t pay attention to the news anymore. I always take a book or a magazine and my MP3 player if I am headed towards a waiting room, of any kind. I am a political conservative and can’t take even Fox News anymore; when it comes to the gory details, whether it’s a plane crash or the latest outrage from the White House, they repeat it over and over and over.

    Over the last decade I’ve weaned myself from the TV. I’ll go through the guide to see if there is a movie or something I’d like to watch — I like the science channels — but if not I just turn the damned thing off.

  53. Ditched cable 5 years ago as a cost-saving measure while in University…now that I’m employed, I still don’t have cable.
    I don’t miss the awful news coverage and the constant barrage of commercials trying to convince me that Froot Loops are healthy ๐Ÿ™‚

    Now I get my news online…like many have stated, I browse the headlines, stay informed but I don’t get bogged down with all the blasting of violent and negative content.

  54. I would definitely agree with this post. The only TV news I habitually subject myself to is Good Morning America; typically it is lighter more happy news. Every morning I like to wake up with a cup of coffee and watch a bit before I head off to class; it is my little morning ritual. On the other hand, if there is something important; such as everything going on in Egypt and Libya right now, I will subject myself to an hour or so.

    Other than that I get my news online, so I can choose what I am going to expose myself too.

  55. Echoing many voices here… I haven’t had a TV in years. Haven’t missed it. My husband and I avoid restaurants that have them. And yet I manage to find out what is happening in the world. I occasionally have people accuse me of being “innocent” or ignorant, but I just point out that if something important happens, I manage to find out about it soon enough, and if it’s not important, why waste time & brain cells?

    Also, echoing a comment above–My Dad used to tell us “You worry about YOU. Make sure you’re doing what YOU’RE supposed to do.” I have generally found that to be good policy.

  56. Thanks for this post – very timely, I really enjoy the message and it rings true for me and my family as well.

  57. I’ve faired well without tv for the last 6 years and find that not being privy to every little news story makes life a little easier. As others have mentioned along this post, if something important has happened, I end up finding out about through friends, colleagues or family or glancing over someone’s shoulder while they read the paper on the subway.

    It’s an unnecessary stress that my family and I can do without.

  58. When I started a graduate Business & Engineering program back in the Fall of 2008 – the head Business professor said that we should be reading the WSJ daily. I did – for about a week. The economy was in shambles then, and I proceeded to never read the WSJ, or CNN, reuters, or any other news source for months. If something was that important in the world, people would tell me about it. I never turned back!

  59. Ha ha .. I once learned that a hurricane was coming less than 24 hours before it hit, luckily, I was in college with few commitments and a flexible schedule. I hate the news, haven’t had tv channels in 7 years…

  60. Even in my local news there is rarely a positive story. You might catch a blurb about the local humane society, but that is definitely the exception.

    There isn’t much good on TV in general. I try to watch as little as possible. When I do I try to make it educational. Definitely no Jersey Shore!

  61. Well, this information really challenges me at the moment. I live in Christchurch, NZ where we have had a massive and devastating earthquake. When we were without power the idea of not knowing anything happening in our city, or with our friends and family made me so paranoid that I feel I’m clinging too much to media updates. I have been stressed and upset for days…but then again, I don’t know anyone here who hasn’t. How do you find a balance when you are IN the ‘sensationalized’ news that you’re watching?

  62. Ahh…the merchants of chaos. And giving
    the fact that the press is bought and
    paid for by the world elite is another
    reason to turn off their brain washing.
    The people I see talking about politics and world events are the one who are usually unhappy and grumpy.

  63. I’ve thought a lot about this, and here is my conclusion: certain news sources are more “healthy” than others. I recommend NPR and the PBS newshour.

    I follow the news in my own neighborhood also. Unfortunately this is often bad: on Thursday a young man abducted a woman at gunpoint. This IS my business although I didn’t know the people involved, as it happened near where I walk every day. It upset me greatly, but I feel as if I need to know this.

  64. I avoid the TV news like the plague. I get my news from the newspaper and news websites, where I read articles but not comments, and I do not watch videos on news websites. I can thus get my news at the pace I want it — no flashy, hypnotic, strobe-effect sound-bites — or not at all as my emotional state might dictate. I also focus more on news sites that report on issues I care about rather than the mish-mash of current world events. I believe there is only limited value in knowing what’s going on all around the globe.

    My clock radio has been a source of aggravation because the time I get up coincides unfortunately with the news, and the first moments of consciousness are not particularly ideal for ingesting the latest horrors, but this MDA post inspired me to try a different, music-oriented channel for tomorrow…I just don’t yet know what time they have their news.

  65. I was cheered by the sight on the news recently of people in Wisconsin chanting, “This is what democracy looks like!” I’m glad I didn’t miss that. I am also happy that the Arab world is liberating itself.

    I am very worried about global climate change, and i can see it on the ground as well as on the blogs I read about it. IT upsets me, but I need to know so I can be ready.

  66. We got rid of cable and don’t watch TV anymore. One of the best decisions we ever made. The news is scripted and the stories are hand-picked. That’s why we read the news at our own pace, from multiple sources, and then decide what is truth and what is fiction. Reading the news in bits and pieces and critically thinking about it makes for a much calmer, and more informed life.

  67. I have long wished for a TV or web-based source of “good news”–timely stories with a positive angle.

    I gave up on national TV news long ago. If there’s a 9/11 kind of event unfolding I might tune in to inform myself, but I find it too tedious watch regularly.

    The only reason I watch local news is for the weather, and only when it’s severe. I don’t really care to hear about all of the local crimes.

    But I’m nowhere near ready to give up my TV. There’s too much good information and entertainment there.

    I quit Facebook half a year ago and don’t miss it a bit. But I do still use Twitter. It’s a great way to stay up-to-date without getting overwhelming, graphic details.

    1. Me too! I have long wished for a “positive news” channel.

      If you MUST let me know if a tragedy occurred, then let me know how the community pulled together, the heroism someone shows in a crises or ways I can help. Focus on people helping each other and empower me to do the same, instead of leaving me feeling helpless and that the world is doomed.

  68. I run a dating/mating/marrying advice forum/list, and I advise my “list-ladies” to stop watching the news. The ‘stories’ affect their/your/our actual physical, biochemical, brain chemistry — and that’s a bad thing. The news is intended to sell crap — which is why the “news” in, say, Atlanta shows (multiple times) a video of a factory fire in Maine {eye roll} (so you’ll watch their commercials).
    The stress, fear, shock, sorrow, anger, whatever emotion they try to drag out of us creates a physical response. It’s oh-so-much easier to live your life in a balanced way if you’re NOT shocking your system with events that do not actually impinge on your life.

    And you will ‘keep up’ merely by living in this society, where you’ll catch enough of what’s going on in the world just from living in it — cab radio, coffee house TV, coworkers’ discussions, whatever. Grok’s brain never had to deal with hormonal/neuronal responses in his brain from seeing stuff that did not affect him. Neither should ours!

  69. I hate that perception that if you don’t read every newspaper and watch major newscasts that you are not savvy. I have been fearful in the past due to the media, and I had to cut a lot of the newsy stuff out. I am not, nor should I be, responsible to react to every tragedy in the world. I help when and where I can. I don’t have a cell phone anymore and that is remarkably freeing! Peace and quiet are precious commodoties.

  70. TV dramas are just as bad as the news. So much suffering and unhappiness.

    Tim Ferriss (4 Hour Work Week) advises a media fast. So far that’s been the hardest part of my Lifestyle Design and going Primal efforts.

    1. I liked Tim’s suggestion of just reading the front page of newspapers as he passes store/cafe entrances. That’s enough!

  71. I am doing a media fast right now. It’s kind of hard at first, to keep from turning on the radio for example and listen to NPR. I am alone out in the country, and I used to turn it on just to hear a human voice.

    But this week I am ignoring all the tragedy in the world and listening more to my neighbors. It’s easier to listen when you aren’t preoccupied with some huge tragedy on the other side of the world.

    INterestingly, my neighbors insist on telling me about these tragedies. One is obsessed with the earthquake in Japan and the resulting tsunami. I get just enough information from him, and no more.

    I also unsubscribed to all my news rss feeds, and I am not looking at the NY Times. I am reading blogs about health and knitting and gardening, and that’s all. For ten days. Then we’ll see.

  72. I no longer watch t.v. either, and haven’t for 6 years. I do enjoy some 70’s and 80’s shows on dvd. I have noticed that when I AM around t.v., especially news, that my adreneline, etc goes up. I really do think it changes the neuro-chemistry of the brain just like a drug. I knoe people who are so hooked on it that they can’t leave thier homes.

    When I watch t.v. now, I become sick at all the obvious barrage of emotional manipulation that goes on. I can’t believe so many don’t see it. And the news is the BIGGEST offender! If it is even true…

  73. One source I’ve recently started reading is online and its called theSkimm. Great way to get headlines, in a newsletter format.

    I’m working on losing the tv, but out of all of the lifestyle changes we’ve made by heading down the primal path, nixing the idiot box is the only one I’m being blocked on. Granted, we typically watch documentaries, Corrie St (not a primal one in the lot!) and British league soccer. Or it’s used as a giant computer screenplay for the occasional Zumba party or Mario brothers Wii showdown.

    I know, not primal. It’s part of our 20%. No one said the 20 had to be food based! ;).

  74. I’m so glad I am not alone in this. The biggest problem for me is that I find social and political issues interesting. I want to be well-informed. But lately I am so sucked in by the negativity… it’s affecting my overall mood. I tried to just not go on the news sites (I never watch the news, just read it online), but of course it’s all over facebook and twitter and all that too. I can’t very well cut myself off from all social media… I mean, I COULD, but I’ve moved around too much and have too many friends in far away lands to do that! I “unlike” and “unfollow” anything too controversial on social media, but people I’m friends with still end up sharing an article… then I get sucked in all over again… UGH!