I had one of those random thoughts as I listened to the early morning news. We get showered with it, or more accurately, hosed with it, twenty-four hours a day, from every type of media. So, where does it go, and what does it create?
What triggered it was side by side news items. The first on Afghanistan, a moral, political and logistical crisis that seems destined to mark another turning point on Western adventurism. The second, run immediately afterwards, was that McDonald’s has run out of milkshakes. Really? After the headlines come the analysis and commentary, some thoughtful, some crass, all of limited use to most of us. What are we meant to do with it as those who lead us demonstrate their limited grasp of the complexity of the events they are tackling? Just watch?
To a considerable extent, we are what we consume, from Fast News to Fast Food. We absorb this news into our systems like trees take nutrients from root systems, shaping how we see the world. Our physiology determines our emotions, which in turn determine our feelings. Finally, our feelings determine our behaviours. The impact we will have on the world today is being shaped by what we consume. That’s a sobering thought.
Whilst we absorb news created to grab our attention more than inform, most of which has a half-life of hours, our attention is needed elsewhere. All around us are opportunities to improve the lives of others and ourselves. Things that will not make the news tomorrow but will feature large in somebody’s day, from sharing ideas to offering support, to just recognising that most of what we are offered is putting dark filters on the reality of our present, for which we have much to be grateful.
There are many things we need to address and put right. However, we will not do that by focusing on for-profit news. Changing things requires action, and action is best achieved with those around us who share our values and purpose. Doing small thing after small thing until we see progress.
We cannot afford our root systems to get clogged with fast news. It has too much impact on our wellbeing and priorities. It slows us down.
Reality is that most of us need no more than thirty minutes a day of news. The rest is addictive repetition and commentary on issues we cannot affect today. A form of voyeurism.
We would do better spending that time on those things we can change.