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Creators of Fake News – Why We Need to Plead Guilty

Each night, many of us switch on our television sets and listen to the news or watch the debates going on. Discussions about the growing pandemic, farmer protests, drug abuse or growing crime in society draw us in. We feel despondent, angry, or fearful about the world in general. Right?

In case your answer is that you are part of a minority that doesn’t watch news or television, the truth doesn’t change. Because, there is WhatsApp, Facebook and a host of social media platforms that provides your daily dose of information. So, the feelings would appear, as if out of nowhere, when we read posts from our friends, relatives and others. No escape!

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Ever wondered what causes these painful feelings? It’s that incessant mental chatter that all of us are prone to through the day. I remember reading somewhere that the human mind generates more than 50,000 such thoughts each day in our waking hours – and leftovers hit us in the form of our dreams (or even nightmares).

The irony is that this has nothing to do with the external stimulus. It’s just that Fake News factory that we carry around in our head. Let me explain. Have you been worried about that phone call from a dear one intimating you about their safe arrival? Or feared when your boss and the head of the division are speaking and wondered if it was about your work? All of us do so, all the time.

And what makes the emotions well up within us after these thoughts is usually an elaborate story that we cook up within us. “I hope my daughter is safe. Why isn’t she calling? I keep reading about these dreadful things in the newspaper…” the story takes any form that we want it to take. And, continues till that phone call arrives.

Now, if this isn’t fake news, what is? And who is the creator? Of course, it is us. And, what is it based upon? Not reality, but our perception of reality that is borrowed from news anchors or our friends, relatives and others who share it via cable networks, social platforms. It is that dreaded internal monologue where we ask and answer our own doubts, questions.

Now see how it affects our perception of the world. The news anchors spin a story based on the fragmented evidence. They say that the pandemic is spreading, based on inputs that they gather. And, based on other information that we have, we pile up our stories to the mix, seldom looking for inputs that form credible exceptions. Like, the recovery rate, in the case of the pandemic.

The feeling of dejection and depression comes home to roost.

It is this pattern is what we need to break. I fell off my bike the last time I rode, so my Fake News Factory tells me that bikes aren’t for me. My last culinary attempt was a disaster, so I can never be a good cook. The list is endless, because the mind finds and fetches a painful experience even from a mountain of pleasurable ones.

So, the next time you feel despondent, pause and become aware of that generator of fake news that works within each one of us. Check, re-check and counter-check. Find exceptions and then experience how you feel.

As the Buddha says: “What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.”

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