Interesting article: news is like sugar

At least that is what Rolf Dobelli claims. He has been going without news for over a year. That means: no tv, no radio, no newspapers, no apps, no nothing. He claims that in that year, he has managed to read a book per week, has gotten calmer and has come to better and greater insights about the world. All because he stopped following what’s going on in the world. He did a talk about it on TED 2011 and wrote a paper on it. And I think it’s an intriguing idea.

When I first started blogging I posted an article claiming I didn’t watch television. I still don’t. I switched on my television a few times during my summer vacation only to find out that in the past 2 years of not watching TV, I haven’t missed anything of significance. See, you don’t need to watch tv and that falls in line with Dobelli’s claim that you really don’t have to follow the news. He holds that news is as bad as sugar: it makes you addicted.  He lists 15 reasons why he thinks this is so and I agree with most of them:

  1. News misleads people systematically (I wrote something similar in my rant about television)
  2. News is irrelevant (it really doesn’t matter to you whether someone in Brazil is attacked by an angry mob, unless you are in Brazil. If something is truly relevant you’ll find out about it anyhow)
  3. News limits understanding (news feeds you facts, but not the tools to understand the facts)
  4. News is toxic (apparently you can get seriously ill from the stress levels news stories create in people)
  5. News increases cognitive errors (otherwise known as the confirmation bias: we believe what we heard before whether that is true or not)
  6. News limits the amount of time you think about things (it doesn’t require you to concentrate on topics, but rather feeds you bite sized chunks ready for the taking)
  7. News changes brain structure (now this I find hard to believe, but based on only feeding of bite sized chunks your brain becomes prone to wanting everything in bite sized chunks hence altering its structure)
  8. News is a waste of time (aha! Again something I wrote in my television rant, it’s a distraction and deviates your attention to less pressing matters)
  9. News makes irrelevant people more relevant by making them famous (instead of people who actually do some good in/ for this world we are reading about Britney trashing cars with umbrellas and Paris Hilton’s last stint in jail)
  10. News is produced by journalists (who according to Dobelli, were granted the short end of the stick when it comes to smartness, something I partly agree with, because really all MOST of them do all day is rewrite press releases into those bite sized chunks we love. It’s copy/paste galore)
  11. News is often wrong (because people don’t do any fact checking anymore, see point 10 and the copy/paste story)
  12. News manipulates (again something I agree with, news is a business, they are there to make money, not to tell the truth, unfortunately)
  13. News makes people passive (news stories are usually about things you cannot do anything about, making it seem like you’re useless)
  14. News gives the illusion of caring (i.e. television marathons that gather money for hungry people etc)
  15. News kills creativity (it’s a distraction and only presents ideas that are already thought up)

So there you have it, 15 reasons to not keep track of news. And I agree with plenty of them. Through experience I have found out that 1, 2, 8, 10, 11 and 12 are definitely true. I’m curious about the others. Will my life be better if I clear my Twitter time line of news sources? If I stop picking up the free news paper on the train, will I really have more time on my hands? In a way I feel i would, but on the other hand if I did cut out all news sources, I probably wouldn’t have found out about this article in the first place. So the conclusion I’m drawing is: a little goes a long way. As long as you consume it in moderation and you keep your balance I think we should all be fine. Just like sugar really.

If you are interested in reading the full article you can read it here.

Q: Do you agree with Dobelli? Will you quit watching the news?

2 responses to “Interesting article: news is like sugar”

  1. Same article was placed in NRC-next of last week. He’s right, Dobelli, you don’t have to follow the news to keep up with what’s happening in the world. But… there are other reasons to read a newspaper (however contradictory it seems). First of all: I like it, even if it’s bad for me (a bit like smoking… I sure do know it’s not healthy, but I enjoy my pipe every now and then). Secondly: everybody has those awkward ten minutes while waiting for a train or a bus, so why not use those ten minutes… and read a newspaper. And thirdly: if I hadn’t had a subscription on the detested ‘news’paper I would never even have read Dobelli’s article in the first place. Or… would I? For example by reading this blog I might have, but isn’t that just as bad as trying to keep up with the news…?

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