That's because writing has an impact — often an emotional one. Say I tell you a story about a woman who has cancer, and she was bitter and miserable her whole life, and then she died, alone, unloved, forgotten and afraid. You'd be sad. But suppose I told you that there was a woman dying of cancer, unloved, virtually forgotten and very afraid, and she lived in your town. In fact, she lives in a facility right up the street from you. You would not only feel sad, but you'd feel prompted to take action.
Maybe you'd resolve to visit this woman. And then maybe you would. Or maybe you'd resolve to visit this woman, and then feel so good about yourself for such a generous intention, that you wouldn't actually visit the woman. Just put it off, and eventually, you learn she died. Then you'd feel guilty.
My point is not to lay a guilt trip, but to argue that when you read, you subconsciously ask yourself this: What can I do about it?
A lot of news is what Saturday Night Live once called, "Head shaking news." There isn't anything you can do about "it" but shake your head. A woman dying of cancer in Adelaide, Australia. Perhaps you could send her a card. But it's awfully remote.
Or a war. Or a plague. Or a political figure. Ralph Waldo Emerson said our political debate is filled with emotion-laden topics such as "This man is right" or "This man is evil" and the like. Seriously, you, Dear Reader, what can you do about the current President's decision-making or the current Speaker's decision-making. You could potentially join with like-minded individuals hoping to influence them. And sometimes that work. Sometimes not. Remember — no matter who's elected, the government gets voted back in. (I forgot who said this.)
Reader impact. What can you do about what you read? Usually, most things you read about will be beyond your "locus of control." This doesn't mean you can't set out to right a great wrong — indeed, go for it. But I submit that if you do, you will have to choose among wrongs to right, and that you will read more unrightable wrongs in a few days of perusing the newspaper than you can hope to right with a lifetime of sustained effort.
And how will that make you feel? Powerless? Frustrated? Angry at our limitations? Saddened? Enraged? Maybe you will find yourself so unable to accept that you can't fix this horrible thing, whatever it is, that you find yourself fantasizing about what you would do if you were in a situation to fix it.
And none of that's good for you.
And it gets worse. There's gossip, too. What is the function of gossip? What is the emotional core? Don't we feel superior, even self-righteous, when we learn of this celebrity's failings or that celebrity has gone into rehab? Maybe we even feel the score's a little evened? I don't know how you feel. I avoid gossip stuff, but something I see it, and inevitably feel superior to some of the celebrities ... and that's not a good part of my soul to magnify.
What is the "reader impact" of this entry?
1. Take stock. I'd like you walk away from this entry with a greater awareness how what you read/watch on tv impacts you. Bring your attention to how communication is impacting your soul/psyche/emotional life. Is it upsetting you? Is it inspiring you? Is it bringing out a dark part of your soul, or a good part of your soul? Do you feel empowered? Or utterly powerless?
2. Consider communication as you would a person in your life. Avoid reading too much highly emotional material that you can't do anything about. You would avoid someone who frequently told stories that left you emotionally drained and unable to help, wouldn't you? Same goes for certain kinds of info. Beware of being addicting to negativity, gossip, anger, lust, etc. Our info age makes us all extremely susceptible to all the worst instincts of mankind. And on the contrary, you would invite someone into your life who made you feel empowered, inspired and in control of your life.
3. Consider news- and info-fasts. Almost every spiritual teacher will tell you this, from the wackiest New Age guru to your local priest/rabbi/imam. A lot of communication is distraction — and your mind is more able to hear God in the silence than in the cacophony.
4. Remember, you shoot ducks one at a time. None of this is to say you can't do something about info you receive. When a dog rousts a flock of ducks, they all take off at the same time. A hunter's natural instinct is to shoot at the flock, and miss them all. A hunter has to train himself to pick out ONE duck, a duck he's capable of shooting (that is, in his range), and then aim for that one.
5. Be gentle with yourself. Like all humans, you live in difficult times. (That's stolen from somewhere, too.)
That's all. Have a good weekend.