What Common Household Item is Killing Your Children?

We’ll tell you, tonight at eight.

Except, if it really is killing my children, shouldn’t I get a news flash across my phone telling me what it is and how to get rid of it, much like an Amber Alert?

I have ignored traditional news media for years, getting most of my news from the Economist.   Yes, it’s a paid subscription and an expensive one. I’m fortunate that my company is willing to reimburse me for it. Still, it’s some of the best and most in-depth analysis I’ve seen. Positions are well thought out, and their research is impeccable.

For those of you shaking your heads thinking it’s an ultra-conservative news outlet, you may be surprised at how liberal many of their social views are. Why? Because allowing things like gay marriage, religious tolerance, and immigration are actually good for the economy.

Remember who is writing it.

They care about making economies prosper and the generation of wealth. In a recent piece, they actually call for allowing people age 16 and older to vote rather than 18.    Why? Because we need to teach this habit like any other. And people must vote or you undermine the very concept of democracy. It’s an interesting article. I recommend it.

As I’ve been entering the social media sphere because authors “must”, I started getting caught in the news cycle. The drama. The “end-of-the-world” mongering.

The fear.

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I decided to stop following people on Twitter or Facebook that post a lot of “news”. I stopped clicking on any and all links to news articles. I stopped looking at anything that remotely resembled click-bait.

Yes, I know a lot of things are going on right now, bad things, but the constant stress was making me crabby and interfering with my sleep.

If you’re rolling your eyes and thinking I’m a snowflake, here are six reasons why research says you should consider changing your news consumption habits.

 

1. It’s Here to Make Money, Not Inform

With the wave of “fake” news lately, this hardly needs explanation. But we need to remember that news doesn’t usually cover what’s important anyway. They’re looking for the “human” element, the element that sucks you in and gets you to keep watching or clicking.

If it bleeds it leads.

If a building burns to the ground, what do you think the media is going to focus on? The building. The people in the building. Injuries. Fatalities. All of which is relatively inexpensive to produce. They don’t actually have to dig to get to the guts of the story. Do they ever tell you why the building burned? Changes to the fire code that should be enacted to save those lives?

No, because those don’t get clicks.

Because of this emphasis on the dramatic, we focus on the wrong things, and those things are then overblown in our minds. We all fear terrorism, but no one thinks too much about chronic stress. Total US deaths, worldwide, due to terrorism from 2004-2014 was 112.  Think about that for a moment. 112 people in ten years. That’s 11.2 people, on average, per year.

How much news did it get?

But how many people die each year of heart attack? Stroke? Cancer? Yet, how much emphasis has any of this gotten?

Stress, on the other hand, affects 143M Americans and 81M are under extreme stress.    The causal connection between chronic disease and stress is growing .

So why don’t we hear more about this? Reducing stress is something we might actually have control over, and it can have a direct impact on our lives. Imagine if reducing stress could reduce the number of people with heart disease or cancer by 10% or even 1%.

The news doesn’t cover this because it doesn’t get clicks.

News is a for-profit organization. They are not here to inform. They are here to make money.

 

2. Doesn’t Really Matter to You

How many news stories have you watched or read in the last year? The last month?  What did you do because you read or watched it? What decision did it help you to make, particularly about anything of consequence? Did you become a better parent? A better spouse? Did you make a serious financial decision? Do something to improve your career?

I ask this is all seriousness. If it is meant to inform you, it should be doing so in a meaningful way. We’ve already established that it’s not really informing you. Rather, it’s telling you things to get you to tune in, and we should be challenging the value of tuning in.

I can honestly say consuming news did little to engender action from me. News stories didn’t even help me make a decision on the candidates I voted for. I got that from their stated positions on their websites.

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3. Teaches You Not to Think Too Hard

This article really says it all. News programming is designed to make you think you’re seeing both sides of a story and getting the low-down, but you’re not. Most of what we get are news bites, little pieces of information meant to fit into an allotted amount of time. Deep, complex subjects require time to digest. Truly difficult concepts can’t be understood in the five minutes of time they get.

We’ve all heard “climate change”, but how many of us have actually taken the time to understand what it is and why it’s happening? What are the macro effects? What does it truly mean to the planet and to us? (Give you a hint, the planet doesn’t care. It’s already survived numerous mass extinctions.) What are we really sacrificing by not dealing with it, and what would it really take to reverse it?

You see this superficiality with a lot of “news” reports.  They are interested in giving you bite-sized pieces, but nothing too meaty. They don’t make money informing, remember? They make money on you tuning in or clicking.

Yet, without this deeper level of understanding, you lose sight of the bigger picture. Events become singular and contained instead of part of the broader view. Hard to make truly informed decisions when you see a very small piece of the whole issue.

 

4. Seek Conforming Opinions

With the sheer volume of news out there, we no longer have to expose ourselves to ideas that don’t conform to ours. If we don’t want to believe in climate change, we can find plenty of articles denying it to fill our screen.

As Warren Buffet said, “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.”

If this is true, then we’re really not seeking information or enlightenment. We simply want to be told that everyone already agrees with us. That we’re right.  That’s called confirmation bias, and it’s very detrimental.

It means you never hear the other side, you never have the chance to understand their way of thinking. You can’t find a compromise because why would you compromise when “everyone agrees with you?”

But what if you’re wrong? Even Albert Einstein was wrong on occasion.

 

5. Induces Stress 

News, particularly what’s splashed across our networks, triggers our  fight or flight response. The same stories that tend to get clicks, tend to activate this center.

When you hear about a family dying in a fire, you have a very different reaction than if you’re hearing about alternate routes to avoid a fire. That’s why so many of us felt panicked and twitchy after all of the 9/11 stories, particularly as we watched people, human beings, plummet from those upper stories.

That’s one image I will never, ever forget.

The “human” side of these stories release glucocorticoid  which has a whole slew of effects on your body. It’s the fight or flight response. And what does this constant fight or flight response bring? Remember that stress we were talking about and how we know it contributes to heart disease, stroke and cancer? Yeah, that. 

It’s like being constantly told there’s a monster under your bed, and knowing there is nothing you can do about it.

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6. Crushes Creativity

I’m not sure if news in general does this, or just bad news.  I won’t say this is an unbiased or researched article, because I couldn’t find any with hard facts, but it states what I’ve seen myself.

The more news I consume, the less creative I am. Or, perhaps, the less time I have for creativity.

Not sure, but I do know that switching off the news, even for a week, made it much easier to work on my novel. I completed as much in a week with it off as I had in three with it on. I felt more relaxed, more able to focus, and able to bring more of myself to my writing.

Why?

Not sure, but I figure the reduced fight-or-flight response is part of it. As is not allowing the news to snatch at my already divided attention. Of course, tuning out the world burning may not be ideal, but there is very little I, personally, can do for the suffering people in Syria other than donate to the White Hats.

 

Yet, despite the stress, lost creativity, and lack of information, we keep coming back to the news. Makes me think they’re in the same camp as social media. They’ve figured out how our brains work and how to keep us coming back for more. How to suck our precious time from us for profit.

I, for one, am done.

I will continue to read the Economist, and I will never know what household item is slowly killing my children until they send me an Amber Alert to my phone.

 

How about you? Do you watch the news? Do you get anything out of it? Does it inform your decisions? Has it ever affected your sleep or given you nightmares?

 

10 Reasons Science Says We Should Say Goodbye to Social media

As an advocate of science, it’s time for me to say goodbye to social media. Or at least reduce my time spent there and change who I spend it with.

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The blog will continue three times a week, as always. I’ve come to enjoy blogging, especially getting to know other bloggers. But social media is different.

I embarked on the journey into Twitter and Facebook specifically for my writing. Instead of giving me the visibility and platform to succeed as an author, I’ve found it stealing my energy, draining my time, and overall, making me unhappy.

So, if you see me less active on Twitter or Facebook, understand that it’s not you. It’s me.

I can’t handle the barrage coming at me. People asking me why I didn’t “like” something. The stupid feelings of inadequacy because not enough people like or retweet something I posted.

So. Done. With. It.

Besides, the point of social media was to help my writing, not suck insane amounts of time from me that I should be spending writing. Or with my kids. Or my husband. Heck, cleaning the dust bunnies out of the basement would probably be a better and more fulfilling use of my time.

I figured it was just me feeling this way, but after a little research trying to learn how to overcome these feelings, I learned I am not alone in this. A bit more digging into the multitude of research papers out there shows that social media makes us less happy in a lot of ways. This helped me feel better about my decision.

Here are ten reasons research says why we should let go of social media, or at least reduce it:

 

1. You Enjoy Experiences Less

Counter-intuitive, perhaps, but studies show that the act of recording something for social media can actually take some of the enjoyment out of doing the thing you’re sharing. Whether it’s snapping a picture of a delicious dessert, or going to the zoo, studies show you will enjoy it less if you immerse yourself in the experience and don’t worry about sharing it with the world.

Perhaps this isn’t so counter-intuitive. Hard to truly enjoy something if you’re trying to get the perfect shot of your cake before you eat it, and are then worrying how many people will “like” your post and if it’ll be seen as “cool” enough.

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2. You Can Miss Out on the Experience Altogether

Research corroborates what most of us know or have witnessed. That parent too busy trying to get the perfect pictures that they don’t enjoy their child’s first birthday. They’re so busy trying to take pictures of all the cool things happening that they don’t participate. 

Except, social media takes this so much farther. Suddenly all of life’s events must be documented, and the person doing the documenting is missing out.

3. You Do Things You Know You Shouldn’t for the “Like”

I haven’t been on social media long enough to experience this personally, but I ’m not even going to Google how many people died last year taking dangerous selfies. Or what those selfies were.

But think about that. People have died taking selfies.

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4. Instagram Life

Rather than focusing on the good moment, the parts of life that enrich us and nourish us, social media can lure us into focusing on the moments that look good. We spend time chasing the Instagram-worthy times and miss out on some of the very best parts.

I can see this happening if you do post a lot on social media. You’ll never see a picture of me snuggled up in the recliner with both of my girls on my lap and all of us still in our jammies. But let me tell you, it’s my favorite part of the weekend when I can get it, and I’m going to miss it desperately when my girls are “too old” to snuggle.

5. Problematic for Relationships

  75% of people have admitted to being rude and disconnected because of their phone. This results in later feelings of guilt, regret, disappointment or embarrassment. Here’s a sign posted on a daycare door, per my Facebook friends.

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I can’t even imagine . . .  I normally have drop-off duty, but when I do get to pick up my girls instead, the joy of their faces makes whatever happened that day melt away. My preschooler can’t wait to tell me about her day, and my toddler is singing momma, momma and clinging to my leg. To miss out on that, for whatever’s on my phone . . . Please, please take a hammer a to my phone first.

6.  Social Media Feeds Envy

Particularly Facebook, makes people envious of others.  The reason this is particularly true of Facebook is that those in our social network are perceived like us. While you may “follow” JK Rowling or Stephen King or even the President of the United States on Twitter, Facebook tends to be fillwed with people we think of as peers. If all we see are their accomplishments, and never their failures or set-backs, people start to feel lesser about their own achievements.

In a society already inundated with marketers trying to make us feel unworthy unless we buy their product, this is the last thing I need.

Makes me wonder if this related to #4.  If all you ever see if other people’s Instagram life, or the special moments they post on Facebook, you may think that’s the entirety of their life. When, in fact, there’s still dishes to do, laundry to fold, and floors to sweep. 

7. Social Media Makes People Lonelier

My first thought when I read this was that maybe they weren’t doing a solid scientific study. Perhaps lonelier people were naturally drawn to social media. But they’d thought of that and proved that lonelier people aren’t drawn to social media in the first place.

So if you weren’t lonely in the first place, why would experiencing social media make them lonely? There’s some speculation that the lack of deep and meaningful relationships on social media is the driving cause behind this. While social media interactions tend to be more plentiful, they also tend to be more superficial and less fulfilling than other interactions.

Unless, of course, you’re in-person interactions are like those of the parents the daycare posted about.

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8. Social Media Causes Depression

Even just “lurking” can cause negative emotions. Given that depression is the leading cause of disability in the US for people between the ages of 15 and 44, anything to reduce this disease is desirable.

 

9. Social Media is Addictive

Of course it’s addictive.There’s a reason why we keep coming back to it over and over again. Companies like Facebook spend a lot of money keeping it that way. They know what lures us on, what keeps us clicking. Social media companies are for profit organizations. They make money by keeping you on their site. They know how to get your brain to give you a hit of that oh so good dopamine, you know, the neurotransmitter involved in pleasure.

It’s why Candy Crush is worth $6 billion. They know how to get you to spend money on a game one step above solitaire. And how to keep you doing it.

10. Social Media is Boring

Addictive, but boring. I can see this. I’m only half engaged on most social media platforms, anyway. Skimming through feeds, looking for stuff to click “like” on without spending too much time looking at any one thing.

Interestingly, according to the study, boredom is part of what keeps bringing us back.

We’re bored, so might as well check Facebook. We’re still bored, might as well go check Twitter…

 

 

How about you?  What’s your relationship with Social Media? Do you feel like it enriches your life, or is it a time thief? Maybe somewhere in between? Ever suffer from any of the downsides research has shown us social media has?  How did you deal with them?

5 Ways I Failed the Social in Social Media

After more than a little nudging, cajoling, and downright shoving, I finally joined social media.

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As an introvert, this was a huge leap. For those of you that are extroverted, imagine spending a month on vacation. By yourself. Deep in the woods. Completely cut-off from civilization. Without cell service or the Internet.

You get the point.

After having spent a few weeks attempting to embrace social media, there are a few things that have come to light:

1. My Life Isn’t Very Post-Worthy DD1 has dance class and gymnastics. DD2 is a willful toddler we don’t like to take places unless they’re very child friendly. DH and I both work full time, then come home and take care of two young children. No restaurants, concerts, or exotic vacations.

2. Being “Social” is a Lotta Work – I have to get up earlier in the morning to check my social media sites, respond, comment, like, whatever. Then, I have to figure out something witty or important to say. See #1 above.

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3. Political Posts are Everywhere – Newbie, remember, but I had no idea some of the ideals certain friends and family held, and I am more surprised that few seem to realize that their posts only appeal to those that already agree with them.

4. Not Really Connecting – It’s social media, so it must be social, but I haven’t figured out the skill of actually “connecting” with people. Again, I’m still new at it, but it feels more like a barrage of stuff comes through my feed, none of which I (or anyone else) spends more than a few moments looking at and then “liking”. Which brings me to…

5. Why Didn’t You “Like” That? – it’s harder to politely ignore or redirect conversations (see #3 and #4). And people know if you didn’t like and share their posts. Never thought I’d ever have to tell someone: No, I didn’t “like” your political post. No, it didn’t make me see things your way. No, I’m not a red commy bastard (I know for a fact my parents were married when I was born). And yes, I still like you and consider you a friend even if I don’t agree with you on this thing you posted.

How about you? How long have you been dong social media? Do you find it easy? How long did it take you to really get into it and understand it? Any secrets to really connecting with people or how you make interesting posts?