News...the news...has progressively bled in prevalence from the occasional page of interest while sipping a cappuccino at a street-side deli; to an always-on clickbait phenomenon that we carry around with us constantly and without question.
It has transcended its historical usefulness as a record of important current affairs to become what we now refer to as 'mass media', the mega-business of communication en masse.
It's widely known that studies suggest that a high percentage of teenagers spend on average more than 5 - 8 hours a day on social media or gaming online.
Teenagers are however a perennially-predictable target for this kind of research, what is overlooked when it comes to behaviour however is just how much time the rest of us spend distracted by media too.
Stress for sale
Evading the long tentacles of media (entertainment, news, social) these days for all of us is almost impossible. It screams out for attention constantly - an aggressive distractor that costs us in a number of ways.
Subscription fees for paywalled content, billed-monthly quickly add up, the collective daily time allocation that we dedicate to consuming random content that could rather be used for other more personally beneficial things, and that's not even taking into account the amount of mental bandwidth that we assign to stories that really shouldn't be any of our business.
Just like overtaxing the RAM on a laptop, a mind awash with news is a mind that is distracted from the present; through our addiction we effectively fragment our own psyche in a million different directions.
In a 2022 study conducted by researchers at Texas Tech Universit it was found that as much as 16.5% of respondents suffered from 'severe mental and physical ill-being as a result of media consumption. It is suggested that powerful news stories - for some people - have the affect of measurably increasing stress levels and negatively affecting their long-term optimism about the future, in-part because of the way in which the news stories are presented. Under pressure to deliver on expected financial performance, media companies focus on sensationalist stories that they know will generate hype rather than news items that are ultimately of more value for collective awareness.
In the 1970s, the American futurist Alvin Toffler called the phenomenon, 'where the perceived speed of advances in technology overwhelm people's own mental capability to make sense of these changes'; Future Shock.
Mass media is effectively amplifying the perceived threat of our current state of Future Shock far more than what the advancing technology would be able to do on its own - something Toffler was not able to accurately forecast.
The threat today is being presented to us 24/7, in 3D and narrated by Morgan Freeman. At a huge price we are being sold dystopian futures that many accept as inevitable.
We don't need to wait for artificial intelligence to 'destroy democracy by making up artificially generated stories in the future' as Yuval Noah Harari has warned of; the reality of a news-addicted, hyper-stressed, unfocused, mentally-frazzled world is already here.
Take control of your vision of the future
How we see the future is dependent on stories that we actively choose, as well as stories that we subconsciously take on from the periphery of our awareness.
With more evidence being gathered that what we are force-fed via the media has the very real consequence of negatively affecting how we see the future, being more selective as to what we give our attention to should be a priority concern.
Your future vision isn't something that others should be allowed to hijack. Take back control of your personal levels of optimism.
Be selective of what you show your mind; when in doubt, give it silence.