For More Happiness Do Less of This

One Saturday morning I was slowly trying to wake up to some episodes of The Office. In my eyes this is a perfect way to start my day. During one commercial break I saw ads for streaming news services. Phrases like “Get your news anytime and anywhere,” “Always on,” and “Be the first to know” where some of the more common vernacular.

It got me thinking about how media in general has changed over the years. As a forty-something year old I’ve been around long enough to see a shift.

Three main things have changed: Availability, frequency, and intensity.

Always on

The news is everywhere, but there’s a logical reason. Heavy doses of “breaking news” get the eyeballs. The more advertising they can shove down your throat the more money is made.

Normally, ads would focus around TV shows, movies, and other forms of entertainment. Now it feels like news is the national pastime. More tactics are used and many years ago the birth of the 24-hour news cycle was born. More channels, including some local, followed suit.

Combine this “always on” mentality with more and more diverse outlets and you now have a world plugged in 24-7. TV, cable, apps, podcasts, streaming services, social media, gas station pumps, airports, gyms, hotel lobbies, you name it. It is everywhere.

Be the first

Knowledge is the new black. Years ago status was measured by things like money, fame, and position. Now we measure each other (at least some do) by knowledge. Not only for information’s sake, but by who heard it first.

Have you ever shared a story about a current event and someone in the group would blurt out, “I already knew that” and possibly try to finish your story for you? Our desire to know something before the rest of the group has pushed our behaviors into suspect directions.

In reality, the first reports of any fast-breaking story are usually void of many details. Over time the authorities, reporters, and revelations will uncover more of the big picture.

Breaking!

Your attention will be drawn to stress, tension, and negativity. We’re born to focus on these things handed down from our ancestors. It ensured that we survived a brutal, unknown environment potentially full of threats.

The news media knows this, especially cable news. Every segment is breaking, an alert, or special report. Words like exclusive have become so commonplace that when something really is breaking we wouldn’t recognize the severity of it.

The tragedy of 9/11 was a real breaking story. Something that caused a seismic shift on the entire country. Now we have exclusive alerts about something a state representative said a thousand miles away. I think diluted is the best term here.

Learn to curate if you want to be happier

I recently read a post by John P. Weiss about quitting cable news and how it benefited not only him, but also his family. Even though he focused mainly on cutting cable news from his media diet it was a great exercise of self-awareness.

You see, I feel like there are many of us out in the world who just consume news because of the points I made above. We are like robots thinking we need to know about everything going on everywhere. If we don’t then it feels like being left behind.

Now I’m not saying all news is bad for you. Keeping up with a few headlines is fine and there are some reputable sources out there, but we could afford to lose some of the excess — especially when it comes to pundits, opinions, and the ever-growing conspiracy theorists that have permeated society.

Curate, delete, turn off.

Limit your consumption to once per day for a very limited time period. Cut out opinionated sources. You don’t need to read the same story on TV, social media, cable news, and then again on some app or podcast. And finally, only give your attention to the things that will affect you directly. Car crash in Alaska and you live in Florida? Unfortunate, yes, but a need-to-know? Not really.

Practice some self-care and curate your attention-grabbing resources if you want to lead a healthier, happier life. The power is ultimately in your hands. Be aware of what has your attention and take control.

***

What about you? Have you adopted any practices to make your life seem a bit lighter?

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3 thoughts on “For More Happiness Do Less of This

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