Mar 172011

Does the news matter? News is packaged up for us in many forms, the most traditional being television, radio, and newspaper, and the up and coming being delivered over the internet.

I did a bit of an experiment recently — I carried a little notebook with me and kept score for two weeks time, jotting down how many news stories I heard from all these sources, whether a story was positive (optimistic) or negative (pessimistic), and whether I though the content of the story would matter to my life one month hence.

The first thing I realized is that “news” is bombarding people from every side. I averaged hearing or reading more than 22 news stories each day, and I really was not looking for it.  I only watched a news program a couple of times on TV and I didn’t ever start an RSS news program on any of my devices.

Secondly, I found that I judged 94% of the stories I heard as negative / pessimistic. If I didn’t occasionally read tech and innovation news, the negativity would approach 98%. While this was anticipated, I could not help but wonder what the effect of all this chronic negativity has on people. The old adage is that good news doesn’t sell newspapers but the constant stream of gloom can’t be good for happiness, reduction of stress, and positive achievement.

The most important revelation I found was that in that bombardment of 312 news articles I noted during the two week period, not in one story — not one — did I find lasting value — in other words, not one story would matter to my life one month from now.

If something does not matter 30 days from now, I think it should be considered entertainment. The news is entertainment masquerading as important information. But shouldn’t entertainment be uplifting? At least 50% of the time? Is that too much to ask? Clearly the news, at a 90%+ negative / pessimist rating is not. I find this lack-of-relevance amazing — it highlights the important difference between “searching for something” or “stumbling into something that is broadcast” to you.

When you Google for something, you are looking for something that is relevant to you. Because of this, the information found has a decent chance of lasting value. But the news just comes at you — one minute they are ranting about oil prices (but I will pay whatever is charged at the pump anyway), the next minute a little girl is missing in a city on the other side of the country (very sad but it will not change anything in my life here in Texas), and then flood waters are washing away someone’s house that was built in a flood plain and they don’t have insurance (bummer!).

We have a choice: It is time to proactively invest our time in something other than broadcast news. Time is our most valuable and fleeting resource. Would it not make far more sense to listen to a great audio book when commuting to the office rather than finding out the stock market is plunging today due to worries about Spain’s debt obligations? Yes, it takes a bit of foresight and planning, but it is well worth the discipline. Even if you don’t learn a lot, you will improve your optimism and that will improve your life in incredible ways.

Amazon bought — I think it was a good decision by Jeff Bezos.

I.M. Optimism Man

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