My reading habits have changed, has yours?

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Yoga Sutra I.33 from Patanjali says:

“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.”

A recent observation

A few gradual and seminal changes are taking place within me past several months and this article relates to my relationship with how I consume news.

Firstly, I have stopped watching television as much as I used to, now confined to a scheduled event or something I wish to catch. I am averse to the idea of watching TV just for its own sake to keep me informed. Digital news allows me to ‘select’ what interests me. Most of my news apps are now on my iPhone.

Also, in the past I would look forward to the crisp morning newspapers. I subscribe to a financial newspaper as well. However, while my mother-in-law pours through every page devoting close to two hours reading, I find myself flicking through it, more out of ‘fear of missing out’ on something I should be updated on. I am left bemused with my own withdrawal. My son is always on his app, for most of his news, and I feel more reassured that its fine, to stray away from the conventional modes of reading and watching Television.

I want to stay updated with what’s happening in the world at large: local, national and global. Yet inside me a part of me is very disinterested. It has for now become a chore rather than an enjoyable past time. A few of my Zoom groups I interact on have shared something similar happening with them. Is it with you too?

I am a part of many HR WhatsApp Groups, but everyone seems to be updating ‘more news’ and ‘webinars’ on it or welcoming a ‘new member’. Hardly, do I find dialogue, and I wonder what is the point of sharing something unless it is deliberated. I have also watched with horror how digital presence has given licence to many to troll, spew and enhance hate. Just about anyone can say anything, almost like my rights without responsibility.

I yearn for a deeper more meaningful relationship and also one reason why I have started writing on linkedin in the volumes I do. I wish for all readers who read my articles to comment, express, join in, with their thoughts, feelings and which would include their vulnerabilities. I do enjoy the ‘Likes’, respect each one who wishes not to comment, but I would rather we all take a risk to stretch out and say, “Steve, I feel the same. Or I don’t agree, I have a different take”. I yearn for a deeper meaningful connect, than the transactional. Will you join me?

Let me be clear, I continue to consume content, but now in shorter packages, of my selection, and through sources I trust. I long to read humour, interesting stories, scientific facts, but am restless reading about politics or catching up on the tinsel lives of others. I have started to enjoy my ‘aloneness’ which has become a joyful space, without ever once feeling ‘lonely’.

So here is my ask, have you experienced a similar trend with yourself: have your reading habits changed?

Why I have started avoiding TV

I feel it is necessary to share a bit more about my avoidance with TV Channels.

Watching TV leaves me feeling very passive and after a while I experience my anxiety growing. I have tried not to react to news each day hoping I manage my day with sanguine composure. 

I find news disturbing and energy sapping. It keeps people constantly scared and anxious: building unconscious fears and seeding prejudice. News as it seems to me is served out with one objective: sensationalism, and with it commercialism. To gain eyeball for the channel and deliver the commercial goals for prime time advertising. TV channels compete for. By ratcheting the decibel levels to steal the march from its’ near rival, it is in constant clamour to gain attention. As we have so little time to reflect on the news or to ascertain the veracity of what is being shared, we are in danger of taking the news at face value and falling prey to colluding with the editorial slant that it so vociferously espoused. 

You can see this out through screaming headlines in the dailies, live news streaming, channels with news anchor, who invite panels not for objective dialogue but to stimulate argumentative views, where emotions are exploited and manipulated and all of us become live spectators to an unfolding drama. Everyone who watches has vested interests and all are gratified perversely. Panel members, who get an hour’s slot to fame to either celebrity status or notoriety. I often wonder why panel members even bother to come when they know it could only be reputation damaging, but I guess they do not care. Unashamed, unabashed, and unrepentant they confirm to us all the sadness of our times: Crime and evil pays, justice and fairness continue to be violated. The anchor enjoys his potency to grandstand each news hour: interrogating and attacking, and making insinuations all the time, even while wishing to appear to be asking a question. Your silence confirms your guilt, your responses are taken as an excuse. Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t. The audience these days is also invited to engage with the gory drama, through live text streaming of messages right through the telecast. News today is perverse entertainment, not objective reporting of facts, even a permissible allowance for offering a perspective. For one, I do not wish to be part of such a circus!I do not want to stay hypnotised to watching moving visuals without my active cognition. I long for deeper reflection, as espoused in our tradition: Shravana (listening), Manana (understanding) and Nididhyasana (contemplation). I worry about my nine seconds attention span, and wonder what would happen if it dropped to 1 second.

News today is speculative, sensational, gory, emotion rousing, and devoid of facts and accurate confirmation by authorities. Through archived images, manipulated clips set to multiple loop, and subtle innuendoes, the media whip up a kangaroo trial: a media trial that allows them to be prosecutor, judge and jury. Through all this we remain hypnotised, our mental abilities suspended, our thinking ability restricted, as we consume large portions of adulterated poison. This toxicity plays itself out in so many other ways: and anger is often deployed where it does not belong.  I wrote an article some time back about an encounter with a journalist who felt he had to ‘pep’ up a story to make it interesting. That incident has in fact even further demoralised me and has put news for me in a bad light.

Who is to blame? To answer that question respond to the riddle below:

Queen, ignored by the King, decide to elope with a Knight, who seduced her and galloped off through the forest, where they were confronted by a Ogre who attacked the horse. The Knight, pushed the queen to the ground and certain death. The ogre’s soul was possessed by a wicked Witch who lived in the mountains. Who is responsible for the death of the queen?

I would love to hear from you about your reflections on this article. Has your relationship with how you consume news changed? If that’s difficult respond to the riddle above – Who is responsible for the death of the queen?

Would you kindly join me and share your experience?

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