About 6 months ago I noticed that people I work with, students and staff, began to subtly change. Many were not as cheerful when I greeted them. There were fewer smiles, less jokes and more tension. Conversations with peers mostly consisted of very short ‘bitch’sessions. Students who used to come every day to my classroom to say “HI” were coming less and less frequently. One student who was normally talkative seemed to be always engrossed in his breakfast at break – I did not realize a cinnamon roll could be so riveting day after day. My life was becoming “serious”.
At one time the hall monitors called me the “laughing, singing man”. I would be-bop down the halls grinning and singing or humming a variety rock and roll golden oldies, usually the last one I had listened to before school. I always had a joke about the latest “edict” coming from the administration or a current fad sweeping the island. At the very least I would find something to be cheery about…. an observation of a bright spot. And today I realized it wasn’t they who had been changing… it was me. I had become “serious”…. “deadly serious”… a scowling grumpy “serious” old fart!
Nobody told me about this change… I wasn’t even aware of this slide into “grumpy-old-man-itus”. I am not sure exactly when I started to become so boorish…
After a few minutes of contemplating my conversion from a life of joy to joyless living, I quickly sought distraction on the TV (CNN International News)…
DEATH, TRAGEDY, SHOOTINGS, BOMB BLASTS, … etc. Same old stuff Nothing changed… still the same old world. And suddenly I knew when this change began – 1800 hours, 30 August. The day I began to watch the NEWS daily!
News headlines always seem to read the same, only the names and dates change. It is as though news organizations have a list of headline templates ready to go and just wait for the effect, city, country, region, globe, disaster – natural or man-made (war, famine,etc.), numbers, and date to fill in the rest. Some examples might include:
- Budget cuts cause (effect)
- Debt Crisis in (country, region or planet)
- (city, region or country)’s misery continues as (disaster) isolates communities
- Officials: At least (some number) killed as a result of (disaster)
- More residents evacuate as (disaster – natural or man-made) affects (city, region or country)
- Rescuers race against time & (disaster – natural or man-made) to save families
- Fast-growing (city, region or country) wildfire(s) scorches homes, prompt(s) evacuations
- Survivors recall (city, region or country) slaughter
- (Date, week, month, year) deadliest month for (country) troops in (city, region or country)
- Officials: (disaster – natural or man-made) kill at least (number) in (city, region or country)
- (city, region or country) cracks down on demonstrations, opposition
- (number) killed in sectarian violence in (city, region or country) , official says
- (city, region or country) report: (number) dead in (number) blasts in (city, region or country)
- (city, region or country)‘s new leader: A snowball’s chance?
- (number) miners rescued from flooded mine in (city, region or country); (number) still missing
“Garbage in …. Garbage out” is what the old computer geeks once said. If you feed a computer crappy data it will only provide an analysis of crap. Although I would scarcely compare our brains with computers I would say there are some similarities.
When a computer program is designed to analyze light it filters out non light data. If it is designed to analyze sound, non-sounds (a range of wavelengths) are ignored. Much like a computer people create filters in their brains to let in only those things of interest or importance. A mother sleeping through a night filled with honking horns and blaring music only to awaken instantly to the sound of her child’s barely audible whimper is only one example. People notice and attend to what their mental filters hold on to; most of the other stuff is left out.
The problem is that people are seldom are aware of the creation of their mental filters. It is one of the amazing automatic functions of the human brain. When people watch the news daily and get a steady input of tragedy they begin to only notice the tragic events around them. When they see only people doing bad things on the news they begin to view the strangers around them as potentially bad and suspect. Seeing only strife on the news causes people to filter out a significant amount of the good things in life.
The beautiful thing is that without constant reinforcement the filters weaken and even though people don’t conciously choose to create the negative filters; they do have a choice.. to stop feeding their brain crappy data.
I decided to TURN OFF THE NEWS, get back to my life and be happy. Or at the very least cut down on the steady diet of news network mental junk food.
“Long, long time ago…
I can still remember…
how the music used to make me smile…” – American Pie, Don McLean
HEY IT WORKS!