When you think about the world what do you focus on? Is it primarily a friendly world filled with people that help each other? Is it a world consumed by hatred where everyone looks after themselves and step over their own mother to get money and power? Do you think it’s a balanced mix of the two?
The answer to this is greatly influenced by what daily information you consume, what you focus on. What’s the first thing you do each morning? How about the last thing at night?
Most people check their phones and read articles, their social media feed, the news. When at work they might read the paper, over lunch they check news feeds. They get home and watch news programs for an hour or so. Before bed, people check the phone again before going to sleep.
There are multiple issues with this process.
The algorithms in Facebook attempt to discern how likely you are to like or interact with content, removing items it thinks you won’t engage with out of your timeline.
So, if you like a video on cars, you will find more car stories in your feed and suggested videos. This ensures ads match people interested in certain areas. But it has a massive negative: isolated thinking.
Say you want information about vaccinations. You decide to first look into the anti-vaxxer point of view, seeing the opposers so you understand their arguments. From then on, social media will display more of the same. It will suggest Facebook groups for anti-vaxers, video suggestions will be from the anti-vaxxer perspective. After a very short time, the other side will vanish. Anything showing the overwhelming benefits and scientific proof of vaccinations will be filtered out. This compounds for every new topic, taking notes from your previous interests.
I remember a blogger that did this as an experiment. He created a new Facebook account and liked, shared and commented on racist posts. Within a few days, his feed was filled only with that content and worse.
In other words, it creates confirmation bias. You are shown evidence that you’re right from people that think like you. The other side is barely seen if at all. Google is similar, skewing results based on your previous searches and mob rule from your area.
Primarily, what does the news show you? Stories of people being hateful, violent and despicable to others. People selling out others for profit. Politicians in another scandal, ruining our natural beauty for the sake of profit. Lies. Molestations. Deaths. Wars. Everything negative.
Sure they have one or two feel-good stories near the end, but they are a minority in the tsunami of villainy. Stories about people being kind to each other don’t sell newspapers or ad space.
All this negativity fills your day, bombarding your mind with crud that doesn’t give you anything worthwhile.
Imagine your life if you stopped digesting the news. Instead of waking up and checking your feed, ask yourself what are you grateful for today. Spend time with your partner, kids, pet, loved ones or simply doing something you love.
Imagine what you can do with your time instead of watching and reading negativity in the news. For a lot of people, this gives an extra 1 to 3 hours a day. What could you do with that extra time?
Give yourself a challenge. For the next 14 days, don’t watch, read or discuss anything to do with the news. Fill your time with something productive and positive. Then reflect on how your life has changed.
I have not consumed the news for over two decades. I have not missed anything important. If it affects me, I will find out about it one way or another. When I want information, I hunt it down.
Research both sides, minimising bias and drawing conclusions from all the evidence. But these days if it isn’t at our fingertips we don’t find it. This helps advertisers capture our attention and make a sale.
Don’t rely on social media for your research. I recommend using a search engine you don’t normally use and that doesn’t track you. DuckDuckGo is one example. Social media allows you to join a community of people that share your interests. That is fine, however, it is not a valid research destination.
My life is better as I am not pumped full of daily negativity.
This is not saying put on rose coloured glasses. Focus on what truly matters to you. So much stuff vies for our time. You determine what fills your day and your mind. Do you want advertisers to dictate that to you; or do you want to control your own life?
Fill your life with positive information, and I guarantee you’ll experience more positivity and happiness.
AJ Watson was born and raised in the Australian gold rush town of Ballarat. He is a Life Coach specialising in Health and Wellbeing. You can discover more of his story in the About AJ page on www.ajcoaching.com.au