“Nothing travels faster than light, with the possible exception of bad news.” (Douglas Adams)
A week after the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown I got back to Spain from a booktour in Germany. The night of my return I met with a good friend and we talked for ages about what we had been up to. After a while there was a little moment of silence and the images of the chaos in Fukushima came into my head.
“It’s crazy what’s happening in Japan, isn’t it?”
My friend gave me a clueless look and lifted his shoulders up and down.
“What’s happening in Japan?”
I stared at him in disbelief – surely he was joking.
“Are you serious? You haven’t heard about the earthquake?”
It turned out he wasn’t joking.
I must admit that I was shocked at first. How on earth could he not know about the biggest news event since 9/11? Unless you are living in a cave in the Himalayas, I thought that the Japanese disaster was impossible to miss. But then, thinking about it further, I recalled a famous phrase: Ignorance is bliss! So while I was watching the unfolding catastrophe in the far East with great concern, my friend was as happy and relaxed as ever. He focused on cultivating his land and his only worry was that his new dog might destroy some of his strawberry plants. While the rest of the world was paralysed with fear, my friend was able to enjoy life as always.
Now, I am not suggesting that we all should become ignorant to what’s happening in the world around us. But I think the amount of news coverage we receive through modern communication systems got way out of hand. More often than not we are being bombarded with so much irrelevant information that there is little memory space left to absorb the stuff that is actually important to us. Today I read that Shakira burnt her hair in a concert – I mean, why the hell do I have to see this as a headline? On yahoo! I find it weird that somebody really thinks that the world should know about this. And I find it disrespectful to bother human beings with such crap!
However, there is something worse than this type of stupid and useless information: it’s the dominant focus on problems. Since most news are of the bad kind, we get a regular overdose of negativity.
Not that long ago you read the paper for fifteen minutes in the morning and that was it. Nowadays, with radio, television and internet it’s very difficult to escape the daily headlines even if you don’t get the newspaper. And as the world is moving faster and faster all the time, there is of course more and more new stuff happening which we are being continuously fed through the different mass media. Earthquakes, wars, economic and political crisis on all continents, spreading pollution, fatal disease and an increase in suicides – news editors are having busy times selecting what goes on the front page. Unfortunately, they hardly ever choose good news. Not because there isn’t any, but simply because the constant drama of fame and war sells much better than a moment of peace.
In summary: We receive far too much information which is a) negative and b) irrelevant to our daily lives. What to do about it? Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Reduce the amount of time you are exposed to the news. Switch off the tele and close the online news sites once you read them. Personally I want to stay informed about what’s happening in the world, but to do so it’s totally enough if I check the news once in the morning and perhaps another time in the evening. There is absolutely no need for hourly updates.
- Choose different news. Every day there is lots of really good stuff happening out there – stories that make you feel inspired rather than depressed. There are great sites which provide uplifting news from all corners of our planet. One of my favourite ones is www.odemagazine.com (for intelligent optimists), but there are of course many more. Have a look yourself – go and find some headlines which make you happy and then tell others about it!