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“Negative people look for (and always find) confirmation for the negative, just as positive people look for and find the lightness of being. Both exist. Both are real and are always with us. The difference is as basic as a decision, and as simple as opening our eyes.” 

– Born for Love, Reflections on Loving, Leo Buscaglia, PhD.

It’s as Simple as Choosing to Look Left Instead of Right

In his final book, Born For Love, Reflections On Loving, noted writer on topics of love, Leo Buscaglia takes a moment to mention that we also need to reflect on and be ready for the possibility of the things we want in our lives. Buscaglia mentions that when we’re in love, we tend to focus away from negativity. Being in love allows us to focus on the happier things in life. Although the negative aspects of life are still there, we simply choose to focus on the happier things with love.

So if we are to take this advice at face value, simply choosing to stop thinking about and stop giving your precious time away to negative things makes all the difference.

The smallest of things can become mammoth if given attention

My Facebook abstinence has really helped me to get back to that realization. Even though I never really was much of a Facebook person overall, spending less than 15 minutes a day there, I discovered that it was not just about the time spent on the social media platform, but the mental time I stayed thereafter I had signed out! The same was true for my experience taking a news media sabbatical. I still refrain from using Facebook although I plan to resume it minimally in the future when I have time. 

I have only recently returned to checking into news sources again. I mentioned in a previous post that there are only a few media outlets that I trust, but I want to clarify that I actually do not trust any of them completely.

Who’s the Sponsor?

I quickly realized that when I only checked the news every few days or weeks even, that the news content was not relevant to me. 

An exception to this was when we would receive email notices from our friends and family that there was a severe weather forecast for our area. This only happened about four times during the period I was keeping my social media and news exposure to a minimum. I was prompted to check my usual sources for news, to find out if indeed this weather warning was something serious. 

Each time I checked in for these “severe weather warnings”, I happened to notice something: the same well-known brand of winter wear advertised on the Severe Weather Watch pages would show up.

Another funny realization I had was that I was never really affected by any of the severe weather that I had been warned about.

My family and friends were given cause for concern about frightening weather forecasts in my area, and while there I’ll bet they also saw the same winter wear ads that I did. When you think about it this way does it not seem like just possibly it could all be an elaborate ad? It’s possible.

Now I’m not saying there is any evil-doing going on here. However, hours of time went into worry and concern which resulted in little more than all of us being willingly exposed to a bit of advertising.

Not every news outlet can decide what advertising you will see on your end of things, this is called Opt-Out advertising where you are likely to get ads based on your tracked interests. The only problem was that I had not spent any time on this well-known winter wear retailer’s website, so I believe it was more of a direct ad from the media channel. 

We’re Not Entitled To Relevant News

Now here’s food for thought. Recently you may have noticed that the layouts of your online media sources are changing. 

A change that has occurred recently that you may have also noticed is that you are only offered a few large pictures and headlines at the top of a site, optimized for mobile as they say, not the basic headlines of the day. 

Today, if I want to know the basic news, I have to click through each subject that I want to hear news about. This way I have to click about five pictures/headlines and spend at least five to ten minutes or more to suss out the same info I could get before on page 1 in a minute. They have cleverly found ways to quintuple the opportunities that I will be exposed to their advertisers

What’s especially annoying about this fact is that they decide what’s most important to me, and it seems to be my interest in gardening, fashion, and home decor. Now, why do I see story choices about these topics when there is probably more relevant news in the world that I came here to see? 

We have an entitled idea that we have a right to the news, but news markets are not charity services. They have bills to pay and advertisers to please.

Think of that the next time a news story upsets you or makes you feel as though your buttons have been pushed. Look around that page for the sponsor. That’s who you have to thank for this emotional manipulation.

News markets are here to make money. We all know of the hard-working reporter with a true story to tell the world. Unfortunately, like studies about vitamins which can’t be patented and for whom no one can claim ownership, the truth usually has no sponsor. 

The news market you visit, they can’t possibly have other motives, can they? 

The Twilight Zone and Toilet Paper

You might be familiar with the famous old TV series The Twilight Zone, but did you know it almost didn’t get aired? Creator Rod Serling had been trying to get sponsors to back the show. He had been trying to get the now-iconic TV show on the air and had been giving presentations to the executives and the various sponsors without much success. But eventually, there was a stroke of luck, this is how it went down.

The network was going to have one sponsor for the particular time slot, it was a toilet paper company. This time slot had three shows competing for it… Now keep in mind this is a toilet paper company considering the favorable or unfavorable light which might be cast upon them by the tone of the show. 

Those three TV shows that were presented to the toilet paper company for possible sponsorship were:

  1. RAWHIDE
  2. BLAZING SADDLES
  3. THE TWILIGHT ZONE

Well, the toilet paper sponsor decided that neither Rawhide nor Blazing Saddles would conjure up pleasant images of how to enjoy their product, so “That’s how the Twilight Zone got born“, says Serling. 

My point in this fun little story is this, there is usually a sponsor hidden in plain sight for many things we don’t even realize are commercialized. We increasingly need discernment to self-regulate the imagery, the stories, and the information we take in on a daily basis.

Who Actually Owns The Media You’re Reading?

According to Forbes’s Kate Vinton, only about 15 people own most or all of the news outlets we all are exposed to most often! In her article titled These 15 Billionaires Own America’s News Media Companies, Vinton illustrates the deeply rooted hold big money has on your attention.

Do you think these people who own most of the news outlets you’re being exposed to regularly got to be billionaires via altruism?

While I don’t wish to sully the names of the owners of The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, US News, World Report, Vogue, Vanity Fair, The Village Voice, it goes on and on, I only want to point out that this huge funnel of information is directed toward you, toward all of us, from the same 15 people at the top.

The news may be true and it may be relevant but you need to stay cognizant of the fact that it is not always that way. How can news be always fairly distributed if the same 15 people are at the top of all or most of the news you get and those people are not running public welfare information stations for free? They are there competing for our attention and compelling us to buy things. 

Once we understand the motives of the news markets we give our attention to, we are better equipped to stand outside of the realm of the hoodwinked consumer and believer of everything we hear, read, or see. 

Using similar techniques to set emotional boundaries as discussed earlier, try taking in information while asking yourself, “Is this true, is this untrue, or do I need more information to decide?” 

I found that my media restriction has opened my eyes to how much needless, time-wasting, and brain rotting media we don’t even realize we’re exposing ourselves to. 

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it helps to think of each hour as three 20-minute pockets of time. 20 minutes does not seem like much time to spend doing something, but when taken in the context of an hour, you only have three of them and you can see how easily we lose precious hours of life to endless 20-minute pockets of time, wasted on watching unimportant news or entertainment stories which are ultimately just bait to expose us to more ads. 

“…Believe half of what you see, son, and none of what you hear” 

– Marvin Gaye, Heard It Through the Grapevine

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  • LINDSEY LIEB

    CEO and Founder of Happego

    : lindsey@happego.app

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