This morning I’ve read this article on gretchenrubin.com and found it to be exactly what I’m trying to say to everyone I see reading, watching and talking about stressful, harmful or angry-filled news! While reading it, I knew I had to share it with as many people as I can! Because, sometimes, we need to listen the same thing from other sources, so that what we hear sticks in our brains! Here it is:
“Potato-chip news” is news that’s repetitive, requires little effort to absorb, and is consumable in massive quantities: true crime, natural disasters, political punditry, celebrity gossip, sports gossip, or endless photographs of beautiful houses, food, or clothes. We all have a duty to be educated citizens, but potato-chip news provides endless commentary, speculation, and images, rather than fresh facts or sophisticated analysis, and information is usually sensationalized.
Most people enjoy potato-chips news from time to time—to track a presidential election or the Oscars. However, some are particularly drawn to material that makes them feel shocked, frightened, insecure, or indignant, and that’s what potato-chip news often provides.
Often, constant exposure to potato-chip news causes a kind of distress that can inflame bad habits—in the people are most drawn to it.
The subject of potato-chip news came up when I was giving a talk, and one audience member asked: “I’m absolutely one of those people who’s attracted to potato-chip news. What they call ‘disaster porn.’ I know it’s not good for me, but somehow I always watch. Plus I do think it’s important to be an informed citizen of the world.”
“Try this,” I suggested. “Get information from written sources. Seeing distressing visual images on TV hits people a lot harder than reading about it—also, you’re more likely to watch three hours of TV coverage than to read about a subject for three hours, and written news tends to be more informative, anyway. Or decide to watch for a limited time, like ‘I’m going to watch for thirty minutes to find out what’s happening, then I’ll turn it off until tomorrow.’”
Potato-chip news has two major downsides: it can take up a lot of time, and the bigger problem, from a habits perspective, is that some people feel overwhelmed and upset, and then they indulge in bad habits to try to make themselves feel better.
It’s stress, but really, it’s a vicarious, voluntary stress. Spending hours stressed out in front of the TV isn’t the same as volunteering or donating. Feeling a high level of personal distress makes people feel agitated and emotionally drained, to the point that they lack the energy or detachment to help—or the energy to manage themselves.
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Have a great gossip-free day, filled with meaningful conversations!