Posted by: deadmousediaries | October 29, 2010

The Power of “Off” – a TV news suggestion from Mitchell Kyd

A few weeks ago, my 90-year-old dad had some outpatient surgery. My mom, his wife of 60 years, and I drove with him in darkness and in quiet for his oh-my-god-o’clock appointment on an early Tuesday morning.  After check-in, we found ourselves surrounded by other frightened faces and we  sat alone together, lost in our uncertainties.

In the corner of the waiting room, looming large above us was not a peaceful fish tank, not a soothing stereo system, not even  a pastoral painting, but a flat screen TV tuned to, what else,  Constant Noxious Noise (more commonly known as CNN).

Gunfire. Traffic deaths. Worldwide contagion. Environmental disaster. Economic meltdown. What a perfect way to start the day! I can hardly envision a more powerful disruption in a sense of well-being, especially in an environment where viewers are held captive and have entered feeling fragile and vulnerable.  This is the place they come for healing, where they are already fighting to keep their heart rate and blood pressure under control for critical reasons.  My first thought was: What are these office managers thinking???

It occurred to me then how infrequently we exercise our power over a small but mighty menace in our daily lives, the TV remote. I know many of you would stone me if you could for spouting such new century sacrilege  but I say, exercise your rights! Turn off the  TV news!

Here are my thoughts.  The big world spins around me without my involvement for the most part.  Author Kelly Corrigan reminded me at the Women’s Conference two weeks ago that I am only one in 7 billion. I also know that bad things are happening  every second of every day and I am blessed to not be part of it. I also know that what I think about, I bring about.  As a result, I make personal decisions every day about what I will and won’t allow to command my attention.

Do you know that television has trained our brains to expect messages to be delivered in eight-second soundbites?  Eight seconds!  That’s the time it takes a cowboy to beat the clock on the back of a ton of whirling bull spit! Personally, I don’t think that’s enough time to give a balanced view of anything and therefore, I don’t consider TV news to be real news.

I’d like you to consider some of my other perspectives. First, negative news sells because it stirs up controversy. Second, because negative news sells, it dominates. Third, very little of what I see in negative news affects me directly. And finally, even less of the negative news that invades my space is something over which I can wield any  influence.

If you doubt me on that, think about the recent BP oil spill.  How many times a day were we all inundated with that message? How many negative emotions did it stir up within us?  How lasting was the effect? And finally, how many of us did a single thing to take an active part in mitigating that situation?

Here is the crux of my request after all this preamble. Pick a day, any day, and turn off the TV news. Use the power of your remote for good! Use those extra few minutes in your morning to stop for coffee at a new location and take time to make some authentic conversation with the person in line next to you. Or, read a few pages from a book that inspires you and warms your heart before heading out the door on just one morning. Or even better yet, walk through the house and gather up all those little bottles of lotion and shampoo that you’ve collected from your hotel stays and cram them into a Zip Lock.

At lunchtime, don’t go into the lounge or break room, take a walk. Write a thank-you note to someone who won’t expect it. Deliver that lotion and shampoo to the homeless shelter and be reminded that your personal economy is probably still doing pretty well.

In the evening, just say “no” to TV news. Instead, visit your favorite grocery store with the specific intent of browsing the bulletin board.  Find out who’s looking for work and who’s holding a benefit for a family in need if you want a clearer picture of what’s going on your backyard. While you’re there, buy an extra bag of dog food and deliver it to the animal shelter to get a snapshot of another segment of the local population. Smile at the grocery cashier and find a reason to compliment her. The next customer will thank you for it.  On your way out, buy a box of cookies, or a calendar or a coupon book from the kid standing outside the door and ask him about his fundraising cause and the good work his group is doing in your community.

If you still need a news fix when you get home, visit your local legislator’s website or pull up the school district home page. You’ll find out what issues are really important to your neighbors and you will see ways that you, one person in 7 billion, can change the outcome of tomorrow’s news.

I want to persuade you to try it; turn off the TV news for just one day. If you like it, you can try it for a second day.  If  it feels right for you as it has for me, you can decide to make a change, one day at a time, until 21 days later, you’ve changed a habit.

If you are already like me and believe that what you invite into your life is as important as what you block out, it’s an easy decision to make. Exercise all your personal power to use the “off” button of your TV remote.  If that thought is  just too scary today, start small. Practice by using “mute.'” Or drink three large glasses of water an hour before news time. Or move your TV into an unheated garage. The techniques to end an addiction are endless. The goal is still the same: take control. Power down and fade to black.  There are just some times when no news is great news.

Copyright 2010. Mitchell Kyd. All rights reserved.

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Responses

  1. Mitchell, I think this post is terrific and timely. thanks, keep at it.

    • Thank you! I appreciate you making time to comment. My blog has a very small following because my content is just a random collection of my stories and not a conversation in progress as many blogs are. That means I am always ecstatic when I get a comment from a reader whose address I don’t recognize! i’m wondering how you found me– if you’re willing to share that bit of info. I’m delighted that you visited at least once and hope you’ll be back soon! MK


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