My (Previous) Addiction to Mainstream News made me Close-Minded, Ignorant and Uninformed

When I was in my 20s and early 30s I was a news junkie.  I watched mainstream news on TV when I was getting ready for work in the morning.  During my lunch hour, I’d run out to my car so I could listen to news on the radio.  I couldn’t wait to get out of work and start my drive home so I could catch up on the news.  I had news on the TV in the background, all evening long.

I loved listening to the news and watching it.  I derived a lot of enjoyment from discussing the current events of the day with my friends.  The guys I dated were equally hooked on news and we’d debate issues for hours.  News was a huge part of my life and I felt detached and drifty if I missed a couple days of it.

Furthermore, I judged people who weren’t into the news, poorly.  I had friends who never watched the news.  They didn’t know what was going on in the world and they didn’t seem to care.  I could not figure out why they would choose to be so uninformed, and we would argue about it.  In the end, I decided that maybe they just weren’t intelligent enough to “get” the news.  Maybe they weren’t intelligent enough to comprehend what was being said.  Maybe they weren’t intelligent enough to care about anything other than what was in their own backyard. I recall talking about them to other people like this “I just can’t talk to so-and-so anymore.  She doesn’t even want to know what’s going on in the world around her.  I don’t get how someone would choose to remain in the dark.  I mean, you can’t even have a normal conversation with her because she doesn’t know anything – there’s nothing to really talk about”.

Unfortunately, it took me until my mid 30s to figure out how very wrong I was.  I’m not in touch with any of those friends anymore but if I were I would be telling them “You were right and I was wrong. I’m sorry I judged you.”

People sometimes say things like this to me,

“But when you first had your daughter, how did you know that you could choose to not vaccinate?  How did you know to start researching it all?  I mean, when I had my kids, I just thought it was something you had to do – I would have never thought to look into it”.

Or, they’ll say,

“Who told you about homeschooling?  I didn’t even know there were options – nobody told me about it.  How did you know to look into the possibilities and options instead of just sending your kid to school like everyone else does?”

And the real answer to those kinds of questions is that I never would have known about the possibilities and options if I hadn’t first given up mainstream news – completely and totally.  In my mid 30s I met someone who challenged my commitment to the news. Initially, I wanted to dismiss this person as yet another uninformed, purposely-ignorant being, who I didn’t want to waste time on.  But, for a variety of reasons, I couldn’t and I didn’t.  I ended up agreeing to give up news for 1 month.  I agreed not to read it, watch it, or listen to it. I couldn’t even pause briefly, on a station that was broadcasting anything related to news or current events.

I was convinced that the world would pass me by in that month…that so much would go on and I would never be able to catch up.  It was overwhelming to think that after the news-free month was over, I would have to spend all my free time reading, watching, and listening to catch up on all that I missed.  In addition, I didn’t know what I would talk about with people, or what I would do with my time.  I truly enjoyed watching, reading, and listening and I liked the role that news played in my life.  I thought my world would lack color, interest, and purpose without it.

I remember the first week being incredibly difficult.  I almost gave up because I thought…why am I purposely making myself ignorant…this is a ridiculous experiment.  But, I stuck with it because it was only a month and I knew I should be able to do it. Plus, I knew that once the month was over, I’d do whatever was necessary to catch up and get back to a good place where I was in-the-know again.

But, I never did catch back up. So much happened in that news-free month.  I learned an enormous amount about everything.  I started thinking for myself.  I began to realize that mainstream news is just entertainment like anything else on TV.  It’s orchestrated, controlled, and dished out for our consumption and entertainment.  I woke up.

Not only did watching the news take up a lot of my time, it also absorbed much of my mental real estate.  I spent time thinking about the news, forming opinions about the stories I heard, getting upset about issues, becoming passionate about issues.  The news played a big role in my daily moods. Once upon a time, I could justify all of this under the guise of “being informed” but as it became clear that the news wasn’t any more real than a reality TV show, and was mostly a form of entertainment that adhered to someone else’s agenda, I could no longer justify the time or energy spent on it.

More important than the wasted time and mental space, was the fact that watching the news was making me dumber and prohibiting me from thinking for myself.  It was spoon-feeding me information based on an agenda that wasn’t my own.  I was so convinced the stories and issues were real, and had an important place in my life and the world, that I didn’t see what was happening.  But, by keeping my mind occupied with the stories, issues, and drama that were a part of someone else’s agenda, I was not fully capable of knowing what was real and what wasn’t – I simply accepted what I was fed and didn’t question it.  I liken it to someone who is in a cult.  When you’re part of the cult, getting continuous input on what is right and wrong , what you should and shouldn’t do, what you should and shouldn’t think, how you should behave….it can all seem so real and so very important. It is only when you break totally free of the cult, that you begin to think for yourself and see what was going on.

When I was watching the news on a regular basis, I never would have considered homeschooling, homebirth, or not vaccinating because I had the “go with the flow” mentality.  I never would have thought to reject GMOs or eat organic food, or use herbs instead of prescriptions.  While the news channels may not do stories that blatantly urge us to vaccinate, participate in public schooling, eat GMO corn, take 20 different prescription medications per day, or anything else that is considered mainstream, the message is always there in the background, very subtly guiding us toward a life that reflects someone else’s agenda. It’s like a slow and systematic brainwashing that can lull you into complacency.  There’s no reason to think for yourself when someone else is doing the thinking for you and telling you exactly what you need to hear to ensure you think, act, and behave in accordance with an agenda. When I stopped partaking in the news, I saw things that were invisible to me before.  I had new and unique ideas and thoughts. I started doing my own research into a wide variety of topics.  I saw new opportunities and possibilities.  I had clarity.

After I gave up mainstream news (about 11 years ago), I did try to dabble in it lightly, here and there.  But, knowing that it’s mostly a form of entertainment caused me to lose interest.  If I’m going to watch something on TV for entertainment, I’d rather watch Seinfeld reruns or the Big Bang Theory. And, knowing that it causes me to be less capable of having original thoughts and ideas, or think entirely for myself, makes it impossible for me to dabble lightly. I used to be so afraid of missing something by not tuning in, but instead, I ended up missing everything.  I’m not uninformed now – I’m more informed than ever would have been possible while mired in mainstream news.

1 comment to My (Previous) Addiction to Mainstream News made me Close-Minded, Ignorant and Uninformed

  • Excellent point about news being entertainment and working for other people’s agenda. I once got into an argument with a friend who knows who intelligent I am but was stymied by the fact that I refused to watch the news (well, except for the old Daily Buzz with Mitch and the gang because they were funny). I actually stopped watching the news when I realized that it was simply increasing my anxiety about going outside. Every day, someone was shot, rapped, or murdered. Then I realized that the news could pretty much be broken down into sex, fear, or commercialization.

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