“Truth and news are not the same thing.” — Katharine Graham, Former Publisher Washington Post
Right from the time we are young, we are conditioned by our parents and society to believe that following the news is necessary to be an informed and responsible citizen.
Since it’s followed regularly by the vast majority of people, limiting the consumption of news or cutting it out it for a period can be seen as a foolish and an absurd decision to make.
But is it really? Here are 6 reasons why you should seriously consider limiting the time you spend consuming the news.
They are negative and depressing
The content on the news tends to be overwhelmingly negative, and this is by design.
Studies show that negative news grabs our attention much more easily, and stimulates a stronger reaction in our brain. Our brains are wired to focus and pay more attention to negative details than positive ones, a phenomenon referred to as negative bias by psychologists.
News mediums understand this perfectly, and seek to provide us content which are negative since they are also aware bad news sells better than good news (especially when it’s sensationalised and emotionally charged).
However just because news mediums rarely gives much attention to positive news and developments that isn’t to say things in our world is all doom and gloom as it may often make us believe.
A little more than 200 years ago, over 90% of the world’s people lived in extreme poverty. Today, that share is less than 10%. Moreover, the share of accidents, natural deaths, crimes, wars, and political oppression have considerably decreased globally.
While the world is often portrayed as a dangerous place by the news media, the fact is that it has never been safer. Though Natural disasters (0.1% of all deaths), plane crashes (0.001%), murders (0.7%), and terrorism (0.5%) get a lot of media attention, none of them kill more than 1%. Two books Factfulness and Enlightenment Now cover this in great detail ( both of which are highly recommended by Bill Gates).
The news media gives little coverage on the positive developments taking place around the country and the world and thus ultimately leaves us with a one-sided and an undeniably distorted picture of the world.
The news is biased
It is no secret that most major news organisations and outlets have certain political leanings and are often funded by big corporations or sometimes even the government themselves.
Therefore bias is bound to creep up in the way they present the news and can lead to a distortion of the truth and the way facts are presented.
The problem with news on social media
An increasingly growing number of the population now receive their news from social media platforms.
Social Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have algorithms which pick up on the type of articles and content you read on the net. To increase your level of engagement on their site, they bring you articles of a similar nature. While this can be convenient in certain cases, it could be dangerous where politics, elections and national issues are concerned and can lead to polarization in public opinion.
Suppose you are pro-Trump or pro-Modi, your news feed will contain articles which are of such nature, and the algorithm will filter out showing any differing viewpoints from appearing in your newsfeed. It eventually leaves you with a lopsided picture that creates an echo-chamber of your own thoughts and views.
Fake news and paid news
With the advent of the internet, fake news is more rampant than ever before. But these don’t just appear only on the internet. Fake news can just as well appear on TV and newspaper, which we often believe to be more reliable sources.
A sting operation conducted by the organisationCobrapost in 2018, revealed that many of India’s leading news organisation were willing to take money in exchange for promoting certain political agenda.
Video recordings revealed that these organisations were even willing to carry out news that would cause communal disharmony as well as influence the election in favour of a political party in exchange for cash.
Following the news is bad for your mind and body
Fearful news puts our body in a stressed out fight or flight mode and releases the stress hormone cortisol. This deregulates our immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. It can also cause impaired digestion, nervousness and increased susceptibility to infections.
Psychologists say that following the news can even increase our personal worries that are not even related to the content of the news story.
You do not become informed by following the news
The belief that we become responsible and informed citizens by following the news is simply a MYTH.
As David Cain of Raptitude says, “The news isn’t interested in creating an accurate sample. They select for what’s 1) unusual, 2) awful, and 3) probably going to be popular. So the idea that you can get a meaningful sense of the “state of the world” by watching the news is absurd.”
In a planet of 195 countries and 7.8 Billion people, I find it ridiculous to believe that we can be aware about what’s happening in our world by following the news. The truth is nobody really knows, all that people know is whatever the media tells them.
Moreover with the amount of misinformation that’s circulated in the news these days, I wonder how informed we truly become by following the news. And I fail to understand how we are doing any favours to anyone by being aware of their plight and suffering by merely following the news.
With all that being said I do not deny the fact that consuming the news can have benefits now and then, which is why I advocate severely limiting its consumption but not cutting it out all together.
Here are few actionable steps you can take to limit your consumption of news
Limit your news intake to just one time per day and schedule a specific amount of time and aim to stick to it (keep in mind that even If you consume 30 minutes of daily news, it’s 183 hours per year — about 23 eight-hour days as Steve Pavlina mentions in this article).
Let go of consuming negative and fearful news. ( It may give you something to talk about but it’s just not worth it)
Turn off all notifications from news platforms on Mobile and PC
Unfollow all news pages on Social Media
Put off your consumption of the news at least for 2 hours after you wake up (waking up to the news is a detrimental and disempowering way to start your day).
Use the extra time on your hands to read up a good book
I’d argue that most people consume the news just like they use social media – not because it adds real value to their lives, but rather out of habit and because they find it addictive.
They would find it uncomfortable to stay away from the news even for a day, not unlike how many would find it difficult to stay away from social media. And the fear of missing out (FOMO) can just as well prevail with the news as it does with social media.
Call me crazy, but I think compulsively following the news is a sure-fire way to programme our minds with fear and negativity. It can lead us to develop fearful and untrue perspectives about people and the world at large.
To quote Steve Pavlina once again,
“How much of today’s news will you remember next year? Can you even remember last month’s news? Your brain discards the news because it’s trivial; what you internalise is the fear-based conditioning.’
Which is why I believe oftentimes when it comes to the news, ignorance is bliss.
The question I’d like to leave you with is why overly concern yourself with the news when it is often negative, biased, bad for your mind and body, and (sometimes) even fake? Is it really the best use of your time and energy?