I recently developed an awful habit. I started reading the news again. It’s an awful habit indeed.
Before the habit
Let me take you back to four years ago. I had just shunned smartphones after spending two years in which my iPhone slowly became a permanent part of my body. For the previous two years, I filled every five-minute wait for a haircut, every moment in line at the grocery store, and yes, every bathroom break either checking email or reading the news.
Mass media trumps intention
My intention in reading the news was always genuine. I care about the world around me and wanted to be “in the know.” I also didn’t want to miss anything relevant to my business at the time.
But I learned something along the way: Mass media companies are really good at sales. They are experts at writing stories that catch our attention, cause controversy, and go viral. And what goes viral? What causes people to read the whole article and to stay tuned tomorrow? What causes people to talk at the water cooler? Essentially anything we’d be better off avoiding.
If it bleeds, it leads
You’ve probably heard the expression, “if it bleeds, it leads.” It’s a media phrase that, boiled down, means we’re doomed to primarily see headlines about mass shootings, celebrity drug arrests, greedy executives embezzling money, and sports starts using steroids.
I almost forgot about political sex scandals, racism, and the media version of lightening things up…celebrity baby names, because I’m sure my life would be incomplete without knowing the latest fruit, vegetable, day of the week, or Bulgarian synonym for origami that Johnny and Jody Moviestar named their child.
Consider the source
News flash: Media companies are in business to make money, not to report the news. They care about one thing…ratings.
And there is nothing wrong with that. Ratings and money are the only scorecard that matters, not what grade they get from some obscure non-profit comparing accuracy of news outlets.
Is the media biased?
Yes. All media is biased because all humans are biased in some way. It’s a fact of life.
That being said, their scorecard is still ratings and money, so whatever maximizes those will usually trump biases.
The weeds that choke
During His time on earth, Jesus warned us about the influence of weeds such as the media in our lives. He told the story of the four soil types upon which seed can fall. One of those soil types is soil infested with weeds. It’s good soil to get something growing, but the weeds will choke whatever grows. He calls our weeds “the cares of this world.”
The cares of this world choke out all that is good in us. They choke out positive thoughts, goals, ambitions, and our purpose. According to Jesus, they can even choke out the very Word of God in us. Yikes.
Living in the dark?
I realized that before I started reading the news again, I already knew everything I needed to know. I still got my five-minute news digest on NPR on the drive to the office each day and I asked those around me if there was anything I needed to know.
I got news from the right places…like my friends and my church.
My city, Fort Wayne, Indiana, is having an unfortunate record year for murders. A city of only 260,000 people, we are on pace for significantly more homicides than Boston.
I had no idea that this was going on until I found out about it one night at church during a prayer service. I wasn’t living in the dark. I still heard about them. But I heard about them in the right context…in a prayer to overcome. In a place of victory, not defeat.
Filling your mind
What I found in the past few weeks is that the more I filled my mind with what others told me to fill it with (the news), the less I filled it with good stuff. Instead of sneaking in a page or two of something positive, I filled it with garbage. And we all know the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
The first step to filling your mind with the right stuff is to stop filling it with garbage. Then fill it with the right stuff, but don’t ever allow the weeds to choke it.
What are you filling your mind with? Have you found negative results from too much mass media?