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No News is Not No News

by Donna Steinhorn on September 5, 2011

This morning someone sent me a video in memory of 9-11.  There it all was again. The planes hitting the towers.  The burning.  The chaos.  The faces.  All set to poignant music.  I’m sure for some, this was an appropriate way to remember, for me it was a smack in the face.

I don’t need to see this sad reminder of hate and devastation.  I knew people who died.  I am surrounded by communities that lost hundreds to this horror.  I’m no stranger to this tragedy.

I’m a bit astonished that we’re approaching the tenth anniversary of 9-11!  It’s not just that a decade has passed since that awful day, but it also marks ten years that I have not watched or listened to the news, with a few exceptions.

I was sitting at my desk that morning, when a friend called and said, “turn on the news, something has happened at the World Trade Center.”  As a result, I was watching it live as the second plane hit.  After remaining glued to the TV, for I’m not sure how long, I finally pulled myself away from it temporarily to drive the short distance to the beach where I, along to the dozens other who gathered there, watched the billowing smoke rise from the towers from afar.

For the next few days, like everyone else, I remained glued to the news whenever I was home.   I listened to speculation about what happened, watched the commentaries on how things were handled, and found myself anxious, angry and disturbed by the often conflicting information.

After a few days of this I knew I had to stop watching.  I turned off the TV, turned on some classical music, and within hours had reclaimed my equilibrium.  It was not that I was unaffected any longer, more that I had taken control of my memetic and emotional environment and chosen how I would respond.

I know someone will ask…but how do you get the news then?  How do you know what’s going on?  I see the news online of course — at sites of my choosing. I read the headlines and if I’m moved to learn more, I read the rest.  I am signed up to receive news alerts, and the husband or friends keep me abreast.  But I no longer fill my consciousness with the rapes, murders, house fires, war, starvation or the disease of the day.  I no longer listen to someone’s political agenda, spin on the news, or the continuing rhetoric and hyperbole.

In contrast, my mom has two TVs and a radio set to different news stations all day long.  She is constantly worried (and tries to tell me about it) about the economic conditions, the tainted food in some far off state, the latest pronouncement about what’s bad for you (often the exact opposite of what she heard last week.)  It causes her needless anxiety.  But she can’t stop herself, much as I try to get her to watch some mindless TV, or film, or the Food Network (my default station.)

She won’t control her memetic environment, but you can control yours.  Decide what information you will allow into your life.  It may surprise you what a difference it makes.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

juliastewart September 5, 2011 at 11:37 am

Hey Donna – I was just talking about 9/11 with my sister. I found out about it while walking my dog at about 9 AM on City Island, where I lived at the time. My neighbors were clustered at the East end of the street, by the beach, looking at the Twin Towers, across the water. Later I turned on the TV and, like you, was glued for days.

A few weeks later, I was online one morning and saw a news pic on AOL about an Air Bus crashing in Queens and thought, Oh no, not again! Back to the TV…

I used to feel that, as an American, it was my responsibility to know what’s going on, because I vote. That was my excuse for TV news, but quality and balance has deteriorated to the point that I can barely stand to watch it, anymore.

I’m still responsible for knowing what’s going on, even though I’ve spent years with no TV, at all. Today, I first hear about most big stories on Twitter and I can look up breaking news via Google for more details.

Internet news reporting has grown tremendously, since the days of AOL. Most is far less heart-wrentching than TV news, so I can be informed, without being engulfed.

TV news is designed to scare us and pull at our heart strings. The more we’re manipulated, the more glued we get to the tube. I haven’t given it up entirely, but I no longer give a bunch of strangers with agendas permission to shape my thoughts and feelings.

That leaves me more rational, more optimistic and more resourceful.

Thanks for the timely post and the reminder!

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