I recently developed an awful habit. I started reading the news again. It’s an awful habit indeed.

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The first step to filling your mind with the right stuff is to stop filling it with garbage. (Click to Tweet)

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?

29 thoughts on “The Weeds of This World | Mass Media and Positive Thinking

  1. Let's Grow Leaders says:

    I’m still in the NPR camp… I try to avoid too much big media. Pros and cons to that approach.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I think the pros outweigh the cons 🙂

      Maybe it’s just me, but I get to riled up reading or listening to the regular news. At least with NPR, I get just the digest on a large scale.

      Funny, I often get asked “what about the weather?” Hello? I have internet and I can access weather.gov thank you!

      1. Lily Kreitinger says:

        And, conveniently, the weather is always the teaser. “Listen to these awful things going on, and then I’ll tell you how much snow we’re getting.” *Eye roll*

      2. Matt McWilliams says:


  2. Jon Stolpe says:

    I really like the audio of this post. You’ll have to let me know how you did this.

    As for the news, I stopped watching it a long time ago. The media emphasizes the negative far more than the negative. I find ways to fill my mind with more positive messages and stories.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Thanks Jon. Super easy to record. Download Audacity (free) and record.

      I use this mic: http://amzn.to/1ckOg2G and a windscreen. You can also get a pop filter. I don’t use one though, but need to.

      Total cost for a great setup is $55 with taxes.

      1. Jon Stolpe says:

        Super cool! Thanks, Matt.

      2. Katherine Leicester says:

        That’s it! Rush Limbaugh, watch out, I’m coming to take your spot at the top.

      3. Matt McWilliams says:

        I have a feeling like his and other radio personalities’ setups cost a wee bit more 🙂

        That being said, you can sound really good for $55.

        You can sound great for $200.

        You can sound amazing for less than $450.

      4. Katherine Leicester says:

        Terrific. I’ll start saving, and practicing my on-air persona.

        Joking aside, I think the podcast is terrific, Matt, and a terrific idea that all of us need to embrace. Next, I’m looking for a video blog.

      5. Lily Kreitinger says:

        I got Rig Recorder for my iPad and an iRig microphone. There’s a free version of the app, and the paid one is only $7.99. I just got the pop filter, will report later on how it works.

    2. Lily Kreitinger says:

      I’m with you, Jon. Love the audio blog!

      1. Jon Stolpe says:

        Nothing quite the the sultry tones of Matt McWilliams… 🙂

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        You said it, not me.

      3. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        Except, of course, fingernails o a chalkboard or cats screeching (c’mon Matt, you know I couldn’t leave that one alone!)

      4. Matt McWilliams says:

        Thanks Lily!

  3. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    I’ve really stopped watching/listening to much news. I still care. But I have just found that I don’t really have the time! I will watch a news program or listen to a talk show MAYBE once a week. I read the news a bit more, but still not much.
    I don’t have time to read all the blogs I want to read everyday to grow as a person, husband, spouse and entrepreneur–let alone read much news.
    I find if I watch too much news I get upset–over stuff that I have no control over. Rather than focusing on the things that will benefit me and my family!
    Great post Matt.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Exactly…you only have so much energy. Investing it in things that don’t improve you or others is a waste of time.

  4. Katherine Leicester says:

    Turning off the TV is, to me, essential for a healthy, happy life, no matter what you want to do. While there’s good stuff, most of it is addictive garbage.

    And when, I ask myself, a former news junkie, has anything happened of any import that I have not been aware of? I knew we’d gone to war after 9/11. I knew who was elected president in 2008. I’ve missed nothing.

    And I watch the people who turn the TV news on first thing in the morning and watch all day and all evening, and they’ve become sour, and bitter, and convinced the future is as black as pitch. No, thanks.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Great point Kathy…it IS addictive. And you are right about the people are addicts…they are not much fun to be around.

  5. Jana Botkin says:

    I recently heard a speaker talk about improving your brain functions. He said that watching tv news causes cynicism, watching more leads to depression, and watching the most causes clinical depression. He actually had numbers of hours to back up each level, but I didn’t take notes because I don’t watch tv news.He also said that reading your news instead of listening to it lessens these effects.

    And what is the benefit of discussing murder of strangers?? Wrecks, attacks, disasters – miss a week or a month or a season, and there will always be more.

    Very good post, Matt!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That sounds like some interesting research Jana. Thanks for sharing.

      I didn’t know such research existed, but it doesn’t surprise me in the least.

      1. Jana Botkin says:

        I think he said it is called The Pittsburgh Study. . .I should have looked it up before yammering on.

  6. Lily Kreitinger says:

    I have to say that I have not watched news daily for the past two years and I have not missed it at all. I read interesting articles on the Sunday paper, I search for topics I WANT to know about online. That’s it. No TV newscasts. When I do, I find myself feeling anxious and scared about how “bad our world is”. Good news don’t sell. I’d rather connect with real people through social media and learn about the great things they are doing on a daily basis to change the world.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Good…no GREAT for you Lily!

  7. My thunk about digesting too much news is in line with Matt’s and those who have commented thus far. Nevertheless, there really are some concerns, esp here in this country, that not only do we need to know about, but being people of a free country, it is our civil duty to actively participate in stemming the tide of evil that is permeating our culture.

    So how do we balance our responsibilities with the need to shelter ourselves from too much negativity? As many of you have stated, we choose the sources of where we receive this info. My husband loves to listen to Bill O’Reilly’s archive of Talking Points. They are headlined so you can quickly scan them and listen to the topics that interest you and they are only a few min long. I am a huge Glenn Beck fan and subscribe to The Blaze TV. However, I find Mr. Beck a bit too overwhelming to handle at times even though he does offer solutions along with his doom & gloom. I get the condensed Firewire from his free news website so I can see at a quick glance if there is anything I want to get more of the details on. I have discovered that his daily radio show has too negative a tone for me, but his tv show usually hits the right balance and he has fascinting guests who inform and enlarge my world plus tacked at the end of it is Real News, which is hands down the most intelligent, informing news program I have ever watched. The regular hosts are upbeat thirty-somethings who sit in a round table format discussing the day’s headlines and breaking it down in ways I can better understand it. I also like to tune in to Liberty Treehouse which is an educational mixture of historical profiles and stories of what young people are doing to make a positive difference in the world.

    Still, being the junkie I am, I regularly have to ask myself what I am most passionate about and streamline what comes into my inbox and regularly take breaks from even that. Doing this helps recharge my spiritual batteries and gives me the energy to participate in those pet areas of concern when I plug back in.

    It is my goal to become more informed and pro-active at a local community level such as attending school board and town hall meetings and perhaps joining our local optimist club, volunteering at the library, food bank, etc…but it is not quite my season for that so I sign petitions and annoy my FB friends with numerous political posts. 🙂 I would be interested to know Matt what you and your readers do to balance your civic responsibilities with the need to block out too much negativity seeping into your lives. Great topic I struggle with daily.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I admit that I abdicate some social responsibility by living in partial ignorance, BUT…I have to remind myself that I have two passions socially and if I try to know everything going on, I will spread myself thin.

      So I focus on those two things. And part of my responsibility to those things is to make money to support those causes and spend time working on those things.

      I love your quote: I regularly have to ask myself what I am most passionate about and streamline what comes into my inbox.

      That sums up my point 🙂

  8. Tom Dixon says:

    I limit the news too … there are just too many people I know who are depressed about what is going on the world who seem absolutely glued to the 24 hour news cycle. One of the first things I tell career coaching clients is to turn off the news. It doesn’t matter how many jobs were created. The unemployment rate, on an individual by individual basis, really doesn’t matter.

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