Updated: Mar 7
Sixteen years ago I stopped watching the news. Network. Cable. All of it. The change I experienced was immediate.
2004 is a year in my life I'll always remember with fondness for many reasons. It is the year I was accepted into a graduate program for Electrical Engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.
My children were two and five at the time, with the oldest entering kindergarten. As a parent, these are years you do not want to miss. Something had to give. That something was television. We ate dinner as a family, and then I would spend the remainder of the evening reading to my children until their bedtime. After that I would return to my studies.
I am not nostalgic for the past. But I’ll always remember those special moments with my two wonderful kids.
Cutting out television meant no more network and cable news. Though I’ve watched a few sitcoms with my family over the past five or six years, I never returned to the news channels. Sixteen years and counting.
The Inner Peace of Reduced Anxiety
When I witness two people arguing, cutting each other off, I feel anxiety. It is not a pleasant experience for me. In 2004 I did not really understand this. I recall a consistent feeling of frustration after an evening watching the news, but it was one of those things I could not quite pin down. I was anxious and I did not understand why.
That’s cable news, right? Present both sides of an issue in an inflammatory method. Invite extreme personalities and let them verbally spar. Why? Ratings. Conflict draws our attention. We love a story where the protagonist overcomes the antagonist. In this case, half of us consider one side the protagonist, half of us are aligned with the other side.
Suddenly my anxiety was gone. Or maybe not gone, but definitely less. I was dedicating 12 hours a day to intense study, worried I was going to fail to accomplish this wonderful opportunity I had been granted. Yet I was more at peace than I had felt in a long time.
I don’t mean to give the impression I wasn’t happy before. I am fortunate. I’ve never been sad for extended periods of time. Yet I recall with clarity how much better I felt when I turned away from network and cable news.
Can We Just Cut to The Chase?
When I tell someone I don’t watch the news I usually get the same response. Mostly through body language. “Yeah, okay Jerry. Whatever you say.” I’ve had this verbalized to me a half dozen times over this years. In person, and on social media.
The most common question I receive; how do you remain informed on current events? The answer is simple. I’m not claiming I don’t get news. I simply do not watch the news. I read articles every day.
One of the things I remember about those cable news channels is how I felt compelled to watch the entire segment. The host, or news commentator, almost always saved the salient points for the very end. Of course they did. This way the audience remains for the whole show. I don’t have to do this with an article. If there is too much fluff I can scroll to the end.
With news feeds I have more flexibility than I would if I relied on television. Even with all of the channels and news shows out there, there exists more outlets via the written word. Much more. I have more variety at my disposal.
Making a Better Life One Step at a Time
It was a lifestyle change. I had to learn how to stay abreast of current events. After I graduated, in 2007, it was a challenge to read articles via my laptop.
Thanks to the emergence of tablets, and larger smartphones, reading articles today is no different than reading an ebook. There are apps available where you select your favorite news organizations. The app I use allows me to read articles from well over a dozen news outlets (more if I choose them), and with almost no advertising.
I am a big proponent of lifestyle changes. Small ones and big ones. If you aren’t happy, then do something. Don’t wait until January 1st to make a resolution you might not keep. Do it now, and follow through. I’ve committed to several over the past years. This one was by accident. I’ve stuck with it because it was a positive lifestyle change.
Only You Can Change You
The benefits for me go beyond reduced anxiety from no longer watching people argue like school children.
I’m not tethered to a schedule to receive news. I can read what I want on my time.
I don’t have to hear biased opinions from someone merely because he or she has a great voice and is pretty to look at. Yes, writers have opinions which are biased. But I can assign my voice to the writing, and I can skip and browse.
I get more information. Thirty minutes of reading, and I’ll learn more about the day’s events than I would from two hours of television.
No crappy commercials. I mean, do I even have to list this? I assume most of the commercials are still drugs from large pharma. No. Thank. You.
I’m not trying to preach. A lifestyle change is something I consider to be personal. I may write about other changes I’ve made in my life, but never in the vain of attempting to draft others to my cause. In my experience, doing so does not work. Personal growth occurs, becomes permanent, when the individual decides to change because change is desired. More often than not, it does not stick when someone is talked into it.
I’m sure I made other personal changes before 2004, but I don’t recall any major ones. Removing myself from the addiction of television, up to that point in my life, it was far and away the most positive thing I ever did.
If you are inspired by this, then give it a try. Turn off that television. If my story does not resonate with you, well, then, I hope you at least enjoyed this article.