Is Following The News Bad For You?

too much newsAs they say, the medium is the message, and the 24-hour breaking news cycle may be degrading your mind and your life. Via the Guardian, Rolf Dobelli argues thus:

News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply.

News misleads. News leads us to walk around with the completely wrong risk map in our heads. So terrorism is over-rated. Chronic stress is under-rated. Astronauts are over-rated. Nurses are under-rated.

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. The more news we consume, the more we exercise the neural circuits devoted to skimming and multitasking while ignoring those used for reading deeply and thinking with profound focus. The physical structure of the brain changes.

News makes us passive. News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. The daily repetition of news about things we can’t act upon makes us passive. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised, sarcastic and fatalistic.

News has no explanatory power. News items are bubbles popping on the surface of a deeper world. The important stories are non-stories: slow, powerful movements that develop below journalists’ radar but have a transforming effect.

News kills creativity. I don’t know a single truly creative mind who is a news junkie – not a writer, not a composer, mathematician, physician, scientist, musician, designer, architect or painter. On the other hand, I know a bunch of viciously uncreative minds who consume news like drugs.

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  • BunnyOle

    I don’t usually watch news, I read news and I am an artist – not van gogh or art gallery sales for a living – but I grew up always drawing and painting, creating things and I still do (my sister got so mad one time because I drew a little picture on a scrap of paper a phone number was written on the other side – god DAMNIT why do you have to draw something on every scrap of paper you see? LOL kind of a petty thing to get mad about) I also write, sing, think, imagine, daydream, create story and character ideas for graphic novels and other fictional storylines I fancy.

    I find the ability to express ideas, come to conclusions – especially ones that others have never reached or even thought of (even if they are in agreement) is also a form of creativity and an expression of a creative mind. The creativity of ideas, creative learning, creative reasoning, a form of abstract logic abilities – something not very many seem to have from what I see, hear and read. I have never been a teacher, but have been asked by MANY people if I was a teacher or had ever been a teacher. Being able to convey information in a way others understand, determining what that individual is capable of understanding, and providing mental tools to others in order to enable them to ‘understand how to learn’ requires not only creativity, but probably a lot of natural ability and intuition.

    Reading or even just scanning ‘news’ is just a stepping stone that gives direction and information required to do research to learn about subjects that interest or concern me. I rarely follow a particular ‘story’ for any length of time, often never knowing the outcome except by accident much later, but certain news stories create a volley of questions in my mind that can lead in very many directions, ‘trails’ if you will, trails that lead to knowledge I may want to obtain – or lead to something I’m not interested in or already know, which is when I stop. After reading news stories from ALL over the world, understanding the hypocrisy of both sides but also noting that different countries report stories in completely different ways based on their own bias – I can read through the shit. Apparently you can read news from the middle east and they will report in a DAY what the U.S. Administration denies and delay reporting for weeks and months while they think up some bullshit lie. Swedish media is so biased, they don’t even try to hide it. It is heavily censored, anti-Swedish, hardline ultra liberal, and literally contains blatant lies and information worded so disingenuously and misleading it amounts to a complete lie. The government here won’t even keep statistical records on the race, religious affiliation or country of origin on criminal convictions (cause that would be racist and mean – translated – then they might figure out all the stupid illiterate ex al shebaab or islamic militia members we bring here commit heinous crimes here. Yeah, it’s not a form of terrorism, you see – my risk map isn’t skewed, I’m not worried about being ‘blown up’ by a somali terrorist, I’m worried about getting getting my head kicked in by one or shot by one in a robbery.

    I used to be more concerned with transient, light, artistic thoughts and patterns, more attracted to beauty and color and things that please me.

    I can’t help it if the world fell to shit and made it very difficult, if not impossible to continue living that way. It’s selfish way to live. Good luck finding something to eat with your ‘painting, designer, musical or composition’ creative abilities when everything you understand descends into chaos and shit.

    Ignorance of the world is not only selfish, it’s suicidal, overtly stupid, and the common fault and way of mankind. It’s what led us to this shitty place where truly the end is in sight. You can just see it, you can certainly feel it, and it is all around us. Seeing that and beginning to feel it, that’s what got me started on being ‘a news junkie’. I didn’t want to, I was compelled to. I have never been one to just accept what is happening around me without question and with acceptance or subservience. You have to tell me why or I will find out myself.

    Those who do not wish to take the time to understand what is happening around us are helping doom the rest of us, and the planet itself.

    Ignorance is not bliss in this case – or maybe it was. Maybe I was happier when I didn’t know what I now know, but even if I curb my ‘junkieness’ I can no longer pretend what I am seeing all around me with my own eyes is not happening.

    P.S. Isn’t THIS a kind of ‘news’ ?? Way to pan you readers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kurt.gaibl Kurt Gaibl

    i listen to the news most days while i work and do check news sites occasionally. a lot of the time i get great ideas for stories, books (yet unwritten), inventions or artwork from the news or things the news made me think of. but i can see how some may simply suck in all the “news” and gain nothing from it besides half understood water-cooler talk…

  • emperorreagan

    Taleb basically argues that one should limit one’s exposure to media because it’s difficult to discern the information from the noise…and the media frequently is focused on the noise.

    Seneca basically argued something similar on reading everything that comes along: Everywhere means nowhere.

    If you submit yourself to the constant stream of media, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You have to find a balance between breadth and depth. You don’t want to wander down into a narrow corridor of thought so that nothing but particle physics exists to you, but you also don’t want to be a little boat buffeted around on a sea of information.

    I prefer journal articles, long form magazine articles, and similar sources because they typically offer depth and spare me the noise of turning on a TV, NPR, or similar.

  • Scott Preavy

    Uh…kind of ironic that the Guardian is reporting on this. How many news feeds did this story just pop up in?

  • echar

    When something real big happens I withdraw and wait it out. I want to make up my own mind, instead of being influenced by the steady flow of how to think about and view the event. I also cannot stand shows like friends, and the myriad iterations of cop/authority porn being pumped into the collective consciousness.

  • Haystack

    I made a conscious decision about a year ago to stop following the news, especially politics, largely to avoid getting upset over stuff I can’t control. Probably, this makes me a bad citizen, but at the same time I have to question the value of mainstream news. So much of it is just political theater, repackaged PR, or emotionally-charged non-issues (like the “ground-zero mosque”). It poisons your mind by choosing where your attention should be focused, and the terms on which a given debate should be framed.

  • BuzzCoastin

    I have been actively trying to avoid News for over 10 years
    it’s hard to escape it’s reach

    and by the way
    “the medium is the message”
    does not refer to media’s content
    but to the medium itself
    which has much more powerful effect than the content

  • disqus_DFnvCRTlP9

    I had been thinking about TV series like “Without a trace” and others, starring FBI agents. I wonder if they are part of a PR campaign to make the FBI endear itself to us, so they can stab us in the back better.

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