Until about the age of 45 I watched the 10pm TV news religiously every night. I thought it anchored me in ‘reality’ and gave me a sense of being connected to the world. But at a certain moment I felt I was caught in a recurring loop. The news wasn’t ‘new’ at all – it was ‘old’: it was always the same. We were always worried about the economy, always shocked by ‘man’s inhumanity to man’, the same appalling atrocities being enacted, sometimes here sometimes there. I felt as if each night I was re-watching material I had seen before. A friend started a newspaper ‘Positive News’ because she felt the same way, and every so often we have bought a bulk supply and sent them out in OBOD mailings.
I stopped watching or listening to the news each day from that moment all those years ago, and what a relief it has been! I might occasionally watch it on TV but this is no longer a habit – the illusion that it keeps me ‘informed’ has been dispelled. I still sometimes check the BBC News webpage or look at attempts at analysis – such as the material on the amazing website thoughtmaybe.com.
I could explain more reasons for dropping the daily ‘News-fix’ of radio, TV or newspapers, and the benefits that have resulted, but instead have a look at Rolf Dobelli’s recent Guardian article which explains brilliantly why we should all consider reducing our news intake. I’ll give a few quotes from his article then a link to the whole piece:
“We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press. Watching an airplane crash on television is going to change your attitude toward that risk, regardless of its real probability. If you think you can compensate with the strength of your own inner contemplation, you are wrong. Bankers and economists – who have powerful incentives to compensate for news-borne hazards – have shown that they cannot. The only solution: cut yourself off from news consumption entirely.”
“News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol).”
“News increases cognitive errors. News feeds the mother of all cognitive errors: confirmation bias. In the words of Warren Buffett: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” News exacerbates this flaw.”
“News inhibits thinking. Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers.”
“News works like a drug. As stories develop, we want to know how they continue. With hundreds of arbitrary storylines in our heads, this craving is increasingly compelling and hard to ignore.”
“In the past few decades, the fortunate among us have recognised the hazards of living with an overabundance of food (obesity, diabetes) and have started to change our diets. But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind. Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be…” Rolf Dobelli