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There’s Nothing Small About the World


“Do not seek the truth, only cease to cherish opinions.”

~Zen saying

I don’t watch the news anymore, and I don’t get the paper.  It took too much time to read, and often it would put me in a bad mood.  There was too much to disapprove of, too many unsettled and unsettling stories.  So I cut it out.

Television news was no better, mostly celebrity misbehavior and crises of some kind: fires, diseases, bombings and market trouble.  I used to turn on CNN first thing in the morning, and listen while I made breakfast.  One day I quit.

Initially, I feared I would feel out of the loop, that suddenly I would not know what was going on in the world.  My peers would be exchanging crucial details about the state of the universe, and I’d have to ask sheepishly, “What’s swine flu?” or “Who’s the US president right now?”  How embarrassing.

I pictured giving up news as some sort of sacrifice.  I’d be gaining more time, and protecting my pleasant mood, but only at the penalty of knowing considerably less about what’s happening in the world.  A worthy trade, I figured at the time, but I really did believe I was giving up something important.  I even felt irresponsible, for deciding to focus on the ins and out of my own life while I ignored the plight of the world.

Now I realize I was not giving up anything of any use to anyone.  The news never really added to my knowledge in any meaningful way.   It just added a steady stream of limited and unsubstantiated viewpoints on select issues to my head, which is already full of limited and unsubstantiated viewpoints.  The news doesn’t inform you about what’s happening in the world.  The news only informs you of what’s on the news.

The Grand Scale of Life on Earth

My city has 650,000 people, each of whom experiences enough during his or her waking hours to fill eight feature-length movies, every day.  Much of it would be unremarkable: TV watching, grocery shopping, cleaning.  But some would be quite meaningful and far-reaching.  You wouldn’t have to go too far to find people who experienced life-changing events today: children were born, friends were made, epiphanies were had, hearts were broken.

Even the so-called mundane events may carry unseen significance.  While organizing my files in my living room today, I came up with about twenty or thirty ideas of things I may want to do in life: trips to take, skills to learn.  I’m in the habit of writing such things down when I think of them, so there is no doubt some of them will end up actually happening a few years down the road.  These things could change my life, yet they will ultimately hinge on something so completely boring: David sorting through a messy stack of papers on his floor, on a nondescript Sunday.

I’m just one person.  There are 200 others in my building, over a million others in my province, 30 million in my nation, 6.5 billion on the planet.  Thinking about the numbers involved, you can see how much volume there is to “what’s going on,” even in just a small area.

And that’s just the people.  There is much more to this planet than what members of our species are up to.

Yet the local newscast runs maybe fifteen stories that happened today, across this city and around the world.

How do they choose them?

They choose what sells.  And what sells?

  • Things everyone is already talking about — The topic du jour.  They change so fast, I won’t bother using today’s stories as examples.  In the past it’s been the O.J. trial, the Vietnam War, Enron, Monica Lewinsky.  Ok, one modern-day one: Susan Boyle.
  • Things people are afraid of at the moment — Two weeks ago it was swine flu, today it’s nuclear war with North Korea.  Economic collapse is still running strong, at the time of this writing anyway.
  • Things that happen to famous people — Oprah’s life, Obama’s life, Britney’s life.  Not your life.  Not mine.
  • Things that give people a chance to really dislike someone — Stories with a clear villain are always big sellers.  The more appalling, the better.  The more ‘right’ the viewer feels, the more of an ego rush the story provides.  The type of ‘enemy’ they provide runs the gamut from serial killers to adulterous politicians — anyone who can be readily hated by the majority of the audience.
  • Things that will affect people on a large scale — New laws, elections, giant companies going bankrupt.  That’s understandable, but most of the things that will affect your life in a big way will not affect a million other lives at the same time.  No journalists will show up to cover your child’s illness, your recent breakup, or your new career.


Of course it is unreasonable to expect the news to cover everything.  But we do often expect it to cover the really big stuff, or at least provide a representative sample of the world’s happenings which, taken together, convey “the state of the world.”

In reality, they only offer small, questionable slices of information, and only about the topics that promise to arouse the curiosity of the most people possible. The vast majority (and I mean 99.9999%) of the world’s happenings could never capture the attention of enough people to make it into any sort of publication.  But they’re every bit as real, and every bit as significant.

When it comes to news organizations, their goal is to capture attention in large swaths, not to educate you.  In order to optimize how much attention they can capture, they aren’t afraid to dramatize, sanitize, spin, or exaggerate the real story before giving it to you.

I am not attacking news organizations, that’s not the point of this article.  This is all just smart business.  And I’m not attacking news-watchers either.  Watch or read the news if you like.  But to make my point I need to expose the fallacy of the news’ ability to inform someone of “what’s going on in the world” in any meaningful way.  It really doesn’t have that capability.  However, it does provide — and market — the illusion that one is able to get a solid sense of what is happening around the world by keeping track of their newscast.

Better Sources

Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.

~ Thomas Jefferson

We’ve been accumulating knowledge our whole lives, so it may seem like we’ve got a pretty firm handle on what the world is and what’s happening in it.  We go to school, we watch documentaries, we hear people talking about things.  We see photographs and illustrations.  Our parents and friends teach us what the world is like, or at least what they think it’s like.  Over time we piece together an image of “the world.”

We read books too.  People who want their information in deeper and larger doses will go to the library.  Yet something you read in a non-fiction book is neither first-hand nor second-hand knowledge.  What you read is probably just the author’s best understanding of the subject, remembered spottily, romanticized a bit, edited a lot.  At best it’s an opinion, which you can take or leave, depending on your own opinion of the source.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with trusting somebody else’s opinion; we need to collect other people’s explanations in order to make some sense of the world we live in.  But it’s a real stretch to start taking the things we read and hear as facts, yet that’s the standard practice for most human beings.

When you think about it, almost all of what we think of as “knowledge” is really just someone’s opinion.  Most of our knowledge is unquestioned hearsay.  If it came from anywhere except your own senses, it’s an opinion, a belief.  Most of the time we are completely unaware of the source of our beliefs, we just know that we feel like we know something for sure.

Not that opinions are worthless, not at all.  We don’t have much else to go on, much of the time.  But they are still ultimately just assertions on your part that a certain thing is the way you think it is, even if you’ve never actually seen it.  In our heads, we build a whole world out of opinions, and sometimes forget that it isn’t actually the world itself in there, it’s just a patchwork model, with a lot of holes and ill-fitting pieces.

No matter how many information sources a person accumulates in a lifetime, and no matter how reliable they are, they’ll never amount to more than just drops in the ocean.  There’s too much to know, when the subject is something as big and complex as a planet.  Not every topic has been written about, by any stretch, and no person could ever read even more than a small amount of it, even if they invest a lifetime.  Not everything has been photographed, even though you could spend eighty years sifting through Flickr and never see the same shot twice.

The truth we must confront is this:

Nobody knows what’s going on in the world, not even close.

These days I often hear people refer to “the state of the world.”  What is the state of the world, can anyone tell me?  Knowing how unfathomably enormous the world is, and how completely impossible it is to ever see more than a relative speck of it, any accounts of “the state of the world” must be extreme generalizations.  So extreme as to make them completely meaningless.

What people are referring to when they use terms like “the state of the world” is their current thoughts about the world.  Unlike the world itself, those thoughts have limited complexity, and are probably dominated by two or three things that that person has seen in the news recently.  To a given person, the “state of the world” might invoke little more thought than “Endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan, GM is going under, and kids don’t play outside anymore.”  Great stretches of missing information are readily filled in with prejudices and assumptions.

“The state of CNN” might be a more accurate phrase.

Nobody has “seen the world.”

Travel is by far the best and most reliable source of information about what’s going on in the world, because direct observation is the only first-hand source.  But you can’t go everywhere.  I figure I’ve seen maybe a few thousand of Canada’s 5.6 million square miles, most of which I just whipped by at highway speeds, without seeing any details.  Even travel rock-star Chris Guillebeau will not have seen more than a minuscule portion of the earth and its people by the time he’s set foot in every country in the world.

keyholeThe world seems small nowadays, because the information age feeds us data from locations all over the globe.  Protests here, a war here, an innovation here, an election here.  But these are just tiny filaments of data, from sources that are ultimately unknowable.  It’s like peering at the world through a thousand different keyholes.  In any given keyhole we can see something, but we can’t see its context, or its causes and effects.

So What Now?

I hope you’re not upset to discover that you know relatively nothing about the planet you’re standing on.  I think it’s great news.

The lesson here is this: any thoughts you have about the world as a whole can be safely tossed out.  They can’t be correct because the subject matter is so overwhelmingly complicated and huge, that it defies generalization.  Nobody knows the whole world, or its current “state.”  Even the most well-traveled, well-read, and well-educated person in history never knew more than an infinitesimal fraction of this great planet.  There is just too much of it.  And that’s awesome.

Knowing that you don’t know what the whole world is all about, or what humanity is all about, is very liberating.  The curses of cynicism, boredom and world-weariness are born from the erroneous beliefs that a person can actually know that the world is a terrible place, or that people are rotten, or that there’s nothing new under the sun.  Those are all just thoughts, they represent no reality.

Thinking is not knowing, thinking is believing.  Sensing is knowing.  You can know a news report about a person, but you can’t know a person through a news report.  You can know photographs of a country, but you can’t know a country through photographs.

The best we can do is to be intensely aware of what is going on in the very room we are in.  The concrete, physical context of our lives, where our bodies are and where our minds are, is what’s relevant and knowable.

Look around the room.  Listen.  That stuff that’s going on around you, the sights and sounds in your immediate range of perception: that’s the world. Those are the facts.

Think about what happens when you become engrossed in the television or the newspaper.  The more time you spend at it, the less aware you are of the room you’re in, which is the physical reality of your life.  So the more second-, third- or fourth-hand data we absorb, the less we know about the world, and the more we merely believe about it.

For most people, the map quickly replaces the territory.  Their beliefs determine what they see in the world, rather than the other way around.  And whatever map you’re working from, it’s not exactly trustworthy: it was likely drawn from fifty thousand different sources, each of which has agendas unknown to you.  Toss the map whenever you notice you’re looking at it, rather than the landscape before you.

If you want to make an assessment about the state of the world, what you can see with your own eyes, right now is the only first-hand information you have to do it with.  Everything else is derivative: second-hand at best, but usually much worse.

Honor the first-hand stuff, and you’ll be living in the real world.  Honor anything else, and you’re only cherishing opinions.


Photo by Bastique, Robbie1 and Michale .

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Positively Present June 1, 2009 at 7:28 am

AMAZING post. I don’t read the paper or watch the news either. I’ve never really been able to explain this to other people. I always say it’s because the news is all about negative, scary, or sad things (which is usually true), but now I realize that, deep down, I knew it was more than that. I knew that there was more to life than what some news room producer chose from the batch of the latest stories. The world is made up millions of people. It’s NOT small. There is so much out there and I think it’s great to know that there is someone else out there who chooses not to read the paper or watch the news. I don’t know about you, but I’m prefectly fine with being out side of the loop that everyone else is in.

Positively Present’s last blog post..who’s afraid of the big, bad past?

Lisis June 1, 2009 at 7:53 am

I definitely agree that we can’t get any sort of accurate picture of the world by reading or hearing about it… or even by traveling to a handful of cities and meeting a few people there. For that matter, I don’t think there is any way to truly know everything about our own little world… our town, our neighborhood, our family and friends, because we are ALWAYS looking through our keyhole of personal filters. There is no objective reality; there is only our limited perception of it.

Having said that, I DO watch and read news and other people’s stories… not to “be in the know” but to cultivate compassion and generate gratitude for the blessings in my life. It is too easy to get complacent when all we see is the world right before our eyes. Maybe we become immersed in our troubles, or satisfied with our contentment… but we forget about all those who are truly suffering around the world.

When I watch or read their stories I know that my troubles are miniscule in comparison, and that I should be grateful for what I have, and that I need to do SOMEthing to help others suffer less. There is some value in that, I believe.


Lisis’s last blog post..Adventure: Dare To Care!

Jay Schryer June 1, 2009 at 8:20 am

A long time ago (in a galaxy not so far away), I was a part of the broadcast news industry. I can vouch for the truth of what you’re saying here. Oh, I have sooo many horror stories that I could share about the news, and why we picked certain stories to cover, and why we buried others. In the end (at least in my experience), making the “news” was all about making money…period. We didn’t care about who we had to hurt, or what difficulties we had to induce on people just to get a story that would sell advertising.

As to the larger issue of knowing the world around you, the best advice I have is to reach out to as many people, in as many different places, with as many different points of view as possible. Try to discover their world through their eyes, and find their truth. Then, share your own. :)

Jay Schryer’s last blog post..Mindful Meditation Monday, Week 3

Roger - A Content Life June 1, 2009 at 8:41 am

“Things that give people a chance to really dislike someone – Stories with a clear villain are always big sellers. The more appalling, the better. The more ‘right’ the viewer feels, the more of an ego rush the story provides.”

How true! It’s great to feel morally superior when we see a “horrible” person on TV. Unfortunately, it leads to a separation of everybody from everybody else.

When I traveled to India, I learned how little I knew about the world. We only see the tiniest glimpse of the world and most of the time we’re too self-involved to pay to much attention to even that. As you say, we can throw away notions we have about how the rest of the world (outside our little living area) operates.

Roger – A Content Life’s last blog post..12 Happiness Activities – Part 2

suzen June 1, 2009 at 9:20 am

Clarity and truth – a dynamite combo here! I’m a “retired” news junkie and all the better for it. My son joined the Army after 9-11 and was in the invasion of Iraq – I was riveted to the news, a real love-hate relationship, almost 24/7 for a year. I had my 15-min. of “fame” due to starting a military family support group & yellow ribbon campaign – 23 interviews on TV and appearing on Oprah. It was all a nightmare! Yes I was “used” to create drama, and promote fear. The only “truth” I learned came from my son when he came home. And if he’d gone public with it, “they” would have locked him up in the brig. His “opinion” or point of view differed wildly from the crap (sorry) that was on the news. It really woke me up to the fact that the news is worthless, edited, staged, censured and focused on what sells. I watch only smatterings and take it all with a grain of salt these days. There is a book “Blessed Unrest” that tells about organizations all over the world that are working to better the human conditions. I have found several to support, all very positive tho not in my backyard. They give me a sense of community and participation in something greater than myself. And irony? I didn’t hear about ONE of these on the news!

There is no substitute for a present moment living attitude and you are so right, there is no way to know everything. We weren’t meant to. It has helped me a lot to realize there is my business, there is your business, and there is God’s business. (Gee, where to focus????) Thank you for a thought provoking post!

suzen’s last blog post..Calling All GENEROUS Spirits

Nadia - Happy Lotus June 1, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Hi David,

Like Jay, I have experience in the broadcast news industry. I was in college and working as an assistant to one of the morning news anchors. Someone came to interview her and asked her why was there always such horrible stories on the news. My boss answered “if it bleeds, it leads”. I was so disgusted by the answer, I quit the next day.

I do not watch the news. I do read stories occasionally on the internet if they catch my interest. My father thinks this is insane because it means I am not informed and he feels I need to be informed. The funny thing is that when we talk about deep issues, the news never comes up and if it does, I usually have some idea of what he is talking about so it never is a problem.

I think the danger with news is that it generates so much fear, no one seems to trust one another anymore and I think that is why we see so much rudeness in the world. The majority of society is good but we don’t hear that so we think it is an evil bad world out there. That is why I decided to do the Happy News segment at my blog because the insanity has got to stop.

Apologies on my long comment. I just think it is important for people to realize that there is so much more to the world than what they are told. :)

Nadia – Happy Lotus’s last blog post..Discovering Your Passions

David June 1, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Dani — I’ve come to realize that that ‘loop’ is not really worth being in. I miss the day-to-day scandals and sensations, and the big news stories find me anyway, through Twitter and word of mouth. I see conventional news only as entertainment now, and I can always find things that are more entertaining.

Lisis — That is a good point, news can inspire compassion for people who are not nearby. When I quit the news, I felt a little bit guilty because I thought I would become unaware of suffering in far-off places. But believe me, in the information age, it still finds you.

It turns out I have not become complacent or oblivious, and I’m never short of things to be grateful for. I think I also felt like I was doing something important and helpful just by feeling bad for others, and the news made it easy to do that. Now that I’ve quit I cannot identify anything useful I have lost.

Jay — Great advice Jay. The whole point of my big trip is to get to know people from another country on a face-to-face basis.

Roger — One day I noticed that I was actually watching Nancy Grace! I thought: I don’t like this woman or anything about her show, so why am I watching? And the answer was that I liked to dislike her. It made me feel good in some small way, to scowl at her from my couch. Almost became a bad habit.

Suzen — Wow, what a compelling story. Especially when it comes to big events like the Iraq War, it’s easy to get a mental image of it, even it’s entirely based on news reports. Your son has first-hand information about Iraq that most supporters and detractors of the war will never have.

David June 1, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Nadia —

I think the danger with news is that it generates so much fear, no one seems to trust one another anymore and I think that is why we see so much rudeness in the world. The majority of society is good but we don’t hear that so we think it is an evil bad world out there.

That’s a very good point, and I didn’t really explore it in this article because it was already too long. The mainstream news is biased towards the negative, yet it has a crucial role in defining people’s beliefs about humanity and the world out there.

The typical attitude towards humanity seems to be a negative one, and I think the news’ preference for negativity is the biggest factor. As far as forming an idea of the world’s happenings, what is a bigger influence than the news?

Brenda June 1, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Hi David

This post made me think of something I read on Jane Fonda’s blog. Did you know that only 3% of decision-making positions in print and TV news media are occupied by women? That’s the equivalent of having twenty comments on your blog piece and only six of them are from women. It wouldn’t be as good, would it? I don’t follow the news anymore either. I follow sites like yours that attempt to get at the truth. I love this sentence.

“In our heads, we build a whole world out of opinions, and sometimes forget that it isn’t actually the world itself in there, it’s just a patchwork model, with a lot of holes and ill-fitting pieces.”

Brenda’s last blog post..Tiny Pebbles

Brenda June 1, 2009 at 1:08 pm

[Did I do the math right on that calculation?]

Brenda’s last blog post..Tiny Pebbles

David June 1, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Haha, no not quite. That would be 6 per 200 comments, but we definitely get the point. That really is a disturbing figure.

David’s last blog post..There’s Nothing Small About the World

Brenda June 1, 2009 at 1:40 pm

It’s all those “holes and ill-fitting pieces” in my head, David. They always caused me trouble with math! :)

Brenda’s last blog post..Tiny Pebbles

Daniel Edlen June 1, 2009 at 2:55 pm

This was partly what I was thinkng about this morning. Check my “last post” below.


Daniel Edlen’s last blog post..Where Are You, Hunter?

Nate @ ItStartsWith.Us June 1, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Great post, David. You hit on something I was just talking to a friend about yesterday: There’s just too much STUFF in this world. You can’t possibly know or understand it all. And you’re right, even if you want to try, watching the news (et al) isn’t going to take you very far in the right direction. I haven’t watched the news for 15 years, and I have never been out of the loop on important information (unless you consider Britney’s latest flap as “important information,” which sadly some do).

You’re not going to make an impact in this world by passively observing what’s going on from whichever keyhole you choose to look through. the only way you make a difference is by getting to know the world that YOU touch (either physically or virutally) – the world you CAN impact, and to do that you have to connect with people. Sure, you can use the TV or the computer as a platform to do so, but in the end it all comes down to a personal relationship.

Instead of spending two hours a day watching the news, spend two hours with your family, connecting with a friend, working on a project, or otherwise finding ways to help someone in some way. If you can do that, then you can spend your days actually making this world a better place, instead of complaining about how bad it seems to be.

Nate @ ItStartsWith.Us’s last blog post..Who Do You Know? (Part I)

Sean June 1, 2009 at 6:48 pm

News schmooze

I used to be a news junkie…..well not so much a junkie. Rather, I was a recreational news hound. I had to know what was going on in the world. by knowing these things that were bigger than us all I was a little above the masses, or something like that.

You said it best when you focused on the world being an amazingly huge and diverse place. As soon as someone presents the biggest, baddest, greatest, laziest, slickest, poorest,…..anything -est,-ier, less, most, oldest, or newest, then it has already been surpassed or will in a few hours.

The only thing that one can strive for is consious authenticity with in one’s self. First-hand, tactile, purposeful, real world action is where it all starts

Brenda June 1, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Just a few more numbers from Brenda the math wiz. Simple addition. You have five comments from women, five comments from men. This is significant. It means you are experiencing/expressing balance and harmony. These are the things I look for when I look for something to read. Way to go, David. You are definitely on the right track. :)

Brenda’s last blog post..Tiny Pebbles

Nuno Castro June 2, 2009 at 5:20 am

Great post ! I was in awe when i read this post. I usually don’t comment about your posts. I just enjoy them, but this one expresses what I feel about the world today. Very well put. Have a nice day!

David June 2, 2009 at 6:46 am

Hey thanks for the comments everyone. I see this has struck a chord with a lot of people.

Brenda — I think the fact that most of my readers are women is a good sign.

Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching June 2, 2009 at 11:58 am

Thanks for this post — what came up for me when I read it was how much richer and more enjoyable it is to focus on my direct sensory experience right now, as opposed to planning what I’m going to do or ruminating about something that happened earlier — living in the world, rather than my beliefs about the world.

Josh Hanagarne June 2, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Great read, David. I just finished the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. one of the recommendations he makes is to go on a “media fast.” I am currently in week one of my own media fast and it has made very little difference to my knowledge, but a great change in my mood.

Part of me feels guilty–am I being a poor citizen by not staying informed? The reality is that 24 hour news networks pretend that there is 24 hours of news to report, when in actuality, they basically scroll through one speculator or abstraction after another.

I buy one drink at a convenience store each day–so far, the headlines on the newspapers have kept me pretty up-to-date.

Ferriss makes one point that made me laugh: ignoring the media gives you a reason to talk to other people. If you don’t know what’s going on in the world, you can always get the cliff notes version by asking someone “what’s going on in the world?” They’ll get to play teacher to your blissful ignoramus and you can still feel like an informed citizen.

I’ll be very interested to see how your feelings on this change the longer you go with it.

Josh Hanagarne’s last blog post..The Terrible Day I Met Bruce Campbell

prayerthegate June 3, 2009 at 10:23 am

Great post and food for thought. I have a labrador who lives to retrieve the morning paper from the driveway. It would crush her will to live if I stopped subscribing. However, I don’t read it cover to cover as I used to. It is so depressing.

prayerthegate’s last blog post..Parched

Carole Fogarty June 4, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Hi David,

Wow, I’ve just found your blog.

Loved your article and so very true. I haven’t
read the newspaper or watched the news in
years. I certainly don’t feel any less informed.

The reason I stopped was due to my Feng Shui
background, and the idea of continously filling
my home with the energy of sad depressing
news was not how I wanted the atmosphere
in my home to feel.

Thanks for the inspiration.


Carole Fogarty’s last blog post..14 Fabulous Ways To Look After Your Body At Work:

Ian | Quantum Learning June 8, 2009 at 7:07 am

A bit late with reading this, but wanted to express my gratitude for this article. I stopped following the news years ago, and gave up TV even earlier. At the time it seemed like a sacrifice, but the more distance I get from it, the more it seems like I removed a shackle.

I recently read a Chomsky book – I don’t remember the title, but it was about the use of propaganda. His view is that dumbing us down with the media (and choosing what to show us and even then misrepresenting it) is a deliberate policy to get us to accept decisions that we would not otherwise accept (invading Iraq, anyone?).

You are right that the only way to experience the world is go out and experience it. And it is huge! Overwhelmingly so sometimes.

Ian | Quantum Learning’s last blog post..Life: powerful and fragile

David June 8, 2009 at 7:57 am

Chris — That’s another good point. The news deals mostly with what has already happened, rather than what is happening right now.

Josh — News’ effect on mood was the initial reason for quitting. I remember driving to work, playing out imaginary debates with people who wrote the letters to the editor in the paper. Not healthy.

Prayerthegate — I guess that’s one good reason to get the paper :)

Carole — Hi Carole, welcome to Raptitude. It does seem to carry a certain energy with it, and I don’t want it.

Ian —

His view is that dumbing us down with the media (and choosing what to show us and even then misrepresenting it) is a deliberate policy to get us to accept decisions that we would not otherwise accept (invading Iraq, anyone?).

I think you are absolutely right. Anywhere there is money, there is political influence, it can’t really be kept out.

Darren Kennedy December 5, 2009 at 8:12 am

Thank you for this article (though I’m 6 months behind the other posters here!) I recently had coffee with someone who was a former journalist. She just doesn’t follow the news anymore, and it astonished me. It theb had me thinking about the news and mainstream media in general: is what’s being reported worth getting angry and depressed over? Is it about things that I can change? Is it about something that is directly relevant to my life? Then I discovered this article through a Google search while looking up how people can function without the news. I haven’t followed the news in great detail as I used to, for weeks. I’ll still scan the headlines over news websites, but I just can’t obsess over them anymore. Is my life any less meaningful if I don’t follow the latest murder case? It sure isn’t, by any means. Thank you!

David December 5, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Hi Darren.

If you quit the news completely it will probably strike you how completely unuseful it really is. It’s actually baffling how most of us think of it as some sort of duty to absorb what’s on the news. If you’re trying to wean yourself off, try newser.com

Darren December 6, 2009 at 1:19 am

Thanks for that link!

Matt May 28, 2010 at 2:57 pm

arrived here via twitter:
good read… unfortunately, i have no way to verify if this is “truth” as it seems like the flawed “opinion” you are so desperate for me to marginalize and ignore…
after all, I can’t even verify if your name is really David…

it seems to be a self-destructing argument. Maybe what IS true is the polar opposite of your eloquent commentary…
or…maybe “there is no spoon”

as my mind started to expand, i realized by the end of the article, that it was a waste of time to read it at the neglect of observing reality in my physical “real world”.
after all, “Everything else is derivative: second-hand at best, but usually much worse.”…one could add: espescially on the internet.

(of course.. my tongue is firmly embedded in my cheek…or is it?) ;)

David May 28, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Oh dear, you’ve strayed into nihilism. Come back!

This article is a reality in your real world. It’s in front of your face. Tangible. Verifiable.

But rest assured that the vast majority of your view of the world at large (or anyone’s) is just made of opinions and impressions, which will not match your actual experience if you ever see those facets of the world face-to-face. You’ll only ever actually see a tiny bit of it, but you’ll probably always feel like you’ve seen more, because of the natural human tendency to confuse impressions with actual experiences.

Angelika May 29, 2010 at 9:59 am

… actually I cannot but agree with you David :-)
And this post weaves imho very nicely with Lisis’ guestpost of 27 May – in all it helps me in my quest in self-discovery and your apt motto of “getting better at being human”.

Fortunately I was too busy “living and working” to follow any of these pseudo-news, tv, women magazines andsoon, also before the advent of the www, which I now use like I would use any other tool (for my self-improvement) – I use a hammer to put nails into the wall, not my pumps, to use a picture ;-)

And thank you David “to put a face to the name” didn’t pop into my mind when I emailed – off to improving my English by reading more on the www – and putting it into practice.

Cheerio, Angelika/Germany

Gaby March 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Such a mind opener. I enjoyed this post tremendously. I think sometimes watching the news just adds to our own misery, or what we condemn ourselves to. I’ve been struggling with living the “here and now” and this post emphasizes the importance of doing just that. There were a few things mentioned that really stuck a chord in me, especially when you say “Look around the room. Listen. That stuff that’s going on around you, the sights and sounds in your immediate range of perception: that’s the world” Those are the facts” Well said. Very well said. Thank you so much.

Gita Madhu November 23, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Till my son was about 6-7 years old, we had no TV-couldn’t afford a set, thank God.
Around that time I had what I suppose is called an “epiphany” of sorts and stopped the newspaper. Again, our worlds did not stop revolving because of that.
Now we do get the newspaper as my son might need to look for jobs. It just adds to the clutter and I do not read it. But it is useful to my husband both because he is a media person and it seems to help him pass time on the potty :)
I like the way you have woven in phrases from your other entries. It is done in a way which shows a lot of control over thought processes.

Peter January 5, 2012 at 1:10 am


Recently discovered your site and have enjoyed some posts I have seen. This post, however, I’m not so much on board with. I certainly agree that mainstream news media focuses a lot of attention on issues that are trivial. But there are also things covered in both mainstream, and to a greater extent, alternative news media, that I think are very important.

Do you think it’s a good thing to be ignorant, for example, of laws which are passed or Supreme Court decisions which have major social and/or political consequences? Is it really a good thing to be ignorant of the political/social/economic situation in other countries? These are areas where the news media can shed light. Maybe if people were more aware of the world outside of their own bubble, politicians couldn’t fool them into supporting immoral wars.

I do agree that the mainstream news media, especially in the U.S., is pretty bad overall, but there are good sources of information out there, particularly on the internet.

Craig July 25, 2012 at 9:11 pm

You just eloquently described what I’ve felt and hated about the news my whole life. Thank you. I don’t think that if you choose to not consume mass media that it makes you an ignoramus. I just think that the media makes itself a lot more important sounding than it is. Also, it makes everything a crisis, so much in fact that it is actually contributing to our over-reliance on outside intervention vice solving problems right outside our own doors.

Garrett May 14, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Good post, David. 24-hour infotainment, the Internet and other tech toys have led many people to claim “the world is getting smaller.” It isn’t. “Friending” someone via social media is not knowing that person. Hearing or reading a news story (be it from a mainstream/corporate source or an independent news source like Democracy Now) is not remotely like experiencing the life of the subject.

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