Terrorism, natural disasters, horrific murders. Every day we see in the news that something terrible has happened here and there in the world.
We’re constantly bombarded by this type of news on TV and social media.
Sometimes it seems like nothing good happens. It seems like the world is a chaotic place, and every year gets worse.
But that’s not a coincidence.
Journalists have known for years that bad news sells.
And the question is: Why we watch it?
Our brain is wired to pay attention to information that can scare us, a concept is known as negativity bias.
The negativity bias is the tendency to pay attention to an event of a negative nature more than to those of a positive nature.
For example, let’s say that yesterday you had a pleasant conversation, but in the end, the other person criticized you for something. In this case, the criticism will most likely stick in your head.
Or, you may have had an embarrassing moment years ago, and yet, there are situations that make you remember that.
We remember the negative more vividly than the positive. The reason for that is that our brain is constantly seeking to defend you from a potential threat.
We inherited a brain that is focused on survival.
Not paying attention to something good isn’t a problem because you can get it again later. But, ignoring the threat can lead to a higher risk.
If it bleeds it leads
The news industry has an expression, “If it bleeds, it leads”, which means that the more shocking the news the more likely of being the rating leader.
News about death and destruction is more easy to achieve. You can get the information from the police. And since they’re on the street, you don’t need a permission to film. And generally are more cheap to cover.
The Russian news site City Reporter made an interesting social experiment.
For 24 hours they would broadcast only positive news. And they would modify bad news titles to seem more positive.
So what happened?
They lost two-thirds of the normal readership that day.
You see, we are attracted more to horrible news than to a positive one.
Look, news channels have a single purpose, and that is to make money.
Their aim is to make you worry about the future what so you can come back for more information.
The news channels are competing with each other and with the entertainment industry.
So, to keep the ratings high they sensationalize the news and they keep talking about it until another bad thing happens.
The psychological effect on us
The research by Graham Davey suggests that hearing TV news has a big impact on our mood. It can increase cortisol levels which may lead to health problems.
Also, the people who watch too much news are more likely to:
- Think that crime rates are rising
- And overestimate their odds of becoming the victim.
- They consider the world to be a terrible place.
5 More reasons to stop watching the news
It’s Irrelevant- No matter what news you’re seeing, it won’t improve your life. There isn’t a single way that watching news can help you solve a serious problem in your life. Instead, It will make you worry more.
News works like a drug- As I explained above, we are tempted to watch the news. And as we watch the story we want to know how it ends.
News interrupts thinking- Thinking requires concentration and uninterrupted time. The news is designed to interrupt you. They make us shallow thinkers.
You’re wasting time- Imagine spending 5-10 minutes in the morning watching or reading the news. Then another 10 minutes in the lunch and dinner.
Not to mention that when something really horrible happens you’ll check it constantly.
The news is a poor representation of reality- The news channels sensationalize the story to gain more viewers. This creates a wrong impression of the reality.
Heavy news consumers often feel that there is a danger in every corner, even though the crime rate is low.
A plane crash makes the news, but a car accident doesn’t. Even though the odds to die in a plane crash are 1 in 1.2 million while the odds of dying in a car accident are 1 in 5000.
Conclusion: Research has shown that people who watch the news daily are more likely to have high cortisol levels. They tend to worry constantly and believe that the world is a very dangerous place.
Believe me, if you decide to reduce the time of watching the news, you’ve got nothing to lose. You’ll save yourself from worrying about the things you can’t control.
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