All of us are familiar with competition. I believe it’s a good thing, because it makes us improve. Like many, I also enjoy watching experts in different fields compete with each other. Major League Baseball? NFL? Golf? Tennis? Curling? I’m in. I’ve even been known to watch a chess match just to admire the skill of the players.
Business, as those who are engaged in it know, is one of the most competitive arenas of all. United Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and dozens of others are competing for your travel dollars every day. Name an industry with more than one company in it, and you probably have competition.
That includes the news business. Newspapers, radio, television, and of course hundreds of independent online news outlets are all after your eyeballs. They are also after your heart and mind.
Your heart, your mind
Back in the day, before cable TV and way before the Internet, there were three broadcast channels: ABC, CBS, and NBC (in alphabetical order). Even then, the goal was to get more viewers, which meant more advertising dollars. How did they win viewers? With better stories, with being first, and with winsome personalities and beautiful people.
Nothing much has changed in those areas. What has changed is the “us versus them” approach. News stations today don’t just want you to watch their news feed, they want you to join them in the fight against their competitors. They want you to support them financially, they want your loyalty, and they want your heart and mind.
Most businesses want those things from you, but most businesses have something to give you in return. A restaurant can serve better food, an airline can have a better route or a more enjoyable travel experience, and a golf club can help you hit a ball farther. So how does the news capture your heart and mind?
Addiction to contempt
In his book Love Your Enemies, Arthur C. Brooks says we have a “culture of contempt,” and that many of us are addicted to contempt. This is more than anger, it is anger combined with disgust. One place you’ll see contempt is when disagreement crosses into a verbal attack on another person. That person is no longer just wrong, they are now stupid, idiotic, and just plain unbelievable.
In other words, you can find contempt on Twitter, Facebook, and the 5 o’clock news. If you get tired of hearing your favorite politician treated with contempt on one TV station, you can simply change the channel. There your politician will be treated “fairly” and those from the other side of the aisle will be treated with contempt.
We’ve known this for a long time
Back in 2013 The Guardian published an article saying news was bad for you. It opened with this: News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether.
There are several other articles online with the same opinion. And of course you can find articles (generally written by people in the news business) who have a more positive opinion about the news.
But for a long time we have known that consuming too much of anything is bad for you, and that definitely includes the news. My belief is that the news is becoming more and more toxic, and that we are being divided more by talking heads on TV and the Internet than we are by ordinary people trying to express their opinions.
Do Good for yourself. Turn off the news.
I’m not saying you have to quit the news altogether, but give your heart and mind a break. Turn off the news for a day and see how you feel. Read a book. Watch a G rated movie. Work on a jigsaw puzzle. Learn to crochet. Go for a walk by a lake. Listen to country music. Lay on your back in the yard and look at the clouds. Pray. Meditate. Be thankful for any and all blessings you have been given. Make pancakes and enjoy them.
It’s kind of like giving up eating junk food for a day. I know you can do it, and I know you’ll feel better for it.