Rolf Dobelli – Do We Need The News?
The news is an ancient concept. Humans have been ingesting news hungrily since time immemorial. Knowing the lay of the land would have had obvious benefits to ancient, often nomadic, hunter-gatherer humans. A thirst for gossip and drama is an evolved feature of human beings.
News In The Modern World
The news is now more widely available than ever before. And it is available in myriad different forms. The news is now a multi-billion dollar business, and news companies are locked in a feverish battle for eyeballs.
Some of the world’s sharper minds spend all their awake hours racking their brains for ways to attract eyeballs to the news outlets for which they work. Their salaries depend on their conjuring ways to attract your attention. This has resulted in a race to the bottom.
Bad News Sells
Humans have an innate compulsion to feast on gossip and gore. We feel unfortunately compelled to gorge on bad news, to slurp down delicious gossip. Bad news sells. So ‘if it bleeds it leads’ is a truism of the modern news industrial complex.
Bad news is reported far more than good news. And bad news is dressed up to be as bad (and therefore irresistible to humans) as possible. Stories are exaggerated, pantomime villains are created, narratives are controlled and curated.
The News Is Often Biased
Humans have unfortunate tendencies toward tribalism. We like to feel like we are on a team. The news activates and promotes these feelings in us by taking the role of partisan cheerleaders for one political faction (or worldview) or another. CNN for the Democrats. Fox News for Republicans. Much of the time, news organizations are not reporting facts, but instead, mere spin.
In these ways, the news is harmful. It misleads us, it makes us believe the world is more full of danger and tragedy than it actually is. It makes us believe we need to be on the right political team, and that the opposite team are ignorant or even evil.
Clickbait News Ruins Our Ability To Concentrate
The news also messes up our attention span by inundating us with clickbait stories; tiny titbits of shallow information that do not challenge our intellect in any way and rot our faculties. This sugar for the mind is addictive and it robs us of our ability to concentrate on more challenging and rewarding media such as books and long-form articles.
So far we have been talking about news outlets whose main raison d’être is getting attention (by any means possible) and making money.
Great News Sources
There are plenty of other much more noble news sources that have at their core a determination to find out the truth and report it to discerning individuals, to arm people with the facts. These news sources tend to supply long-form content that, if digested selectively, can be educational, mentally-enriching, and enjoyable. If one searches diligently it is not difficult to find news sources that are impartial and whose sole aim is to investigate and inform. Sensible, conscious, thinking consumption of these news sources can be of benefit to many people.
How To Healthily Consume News
Discipline and discernment are crucial when consuming news. A majority of news content is trash, designed to be addictive, and not improving your life in any way. A minority of news sources are enriching, thought-provoking, and educational.
Do We Need the News?
Perhaps. This is a question that each of us need to answer for ourselves.
We can benefit from high-quality news content in managed doses. But beware the negative effects of succumbing, and being brainwashed by, the news industrial complex.