Don’t Follow the News, at Least I Don’t
There’s nothing more enjoyable then calling my mom up to exchange life updates only to have the conversation spiral into an argument over how the Syria conflict affects me and how I’m a stupid fool because I don’t follow the news. Call me señor ignoramus. But guess what? I’m happy for it.
Disclaimer: some of what I write might make me sound like some cold, apathetic hater on everything that is happening to our global family. I assure you dear reader that I am not heartless. I donated my 23rd birthday to giving clean water, and am actively interested in making our planet less a trash site. The following reasons of why I don’t follow the news are mine and solely mine.
I’ll start with the big guns. For anyone who’s not aware of this number, here’s what Wikepedia has to say:
Dunbar’s number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person.
You may have heard the number 150 used when talking about Facebook and how many people you can realistically maintain relationships with. Well the news ain’t no different. People take time, so does pursuing the news.
Picture this: instead of living on a planet with a diameter of almost 8,000 miles, imagine living on one twice the size of our earth. That means twice the news output, twice the reporters to compete over our attention… Our brains can’t keep track of a smidgeon of a fraction of a percent of all that.
There’s only so much that we can process and for me it comes down to whether I should pursue ISIS updates *or* figure out how to make money so my ass doesn’t go homeless. Should I inform myself about an election that’s 8 months away or learn how to speak a foreign language? Time is currency and there’s only so much of it to go around.
Other People Decide
On top of not being able to fathom all that information, guess who decides what is worth learning about? That’s right, giant corporations like BBC, CNN and Fox that select stories based on potential views in order to maintain ratings.
My advice to myself: Choose what’s important to you, and you follow it. Not the other way around.
The News is Depressing
Short and sweet.
You will not convince me that global news is good news. I get my share of good news reading articles that interest and affect me. I’ll pass on this roulette wheel of misery.
Being sad for others does not leave me any better off than before. I’m simply, sad…
And if hearing about casualties doesn’t send chills up your spine then you’ve sacrificed your sense of empathy. Stalin stated it damn well when he said
The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.
If you can read about conflicts in both Ukraine and in Nigeria with the same composure, then you either ironically know people from both places and understand their loss or you don’t actually fathom the gravity of the situation. How should you? You’re not there, you can’t make up your own view without absorbing the biases from the news reporter that brought you this chunk of news.
It’s Doesn’t Touch Me Directly
Now my mother will argue that the news does affects me. Sure, indirectly. A powerful storm in Fiji leaves a family homeless leading them to immigrate to Toronto, directly leading to a child growing up and becoming a politician who decides to build more bike routes around the city when I’m living in Toronto. The world’s a tangle. You don’t need to be involved in everything to be involved in something.
Low Return Rate on Change
For the amount of news we take in how much action do we take as a result of that? For the number of advertisements you see in a day, how many of those products do you end up buying? Another reason I don’t follow the news is because News outlets are shooting shotgun rounds of news at us. News stations do not bring you truly urgent news like a hypothetical 18th century decree in Toulouse, France informing their citizens of the kings latest laws, or to push for a 16th century Christian reform in Germany with the likes of Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses on what’s wrong with the current Catholic system.
There is no single news source so urgent that you will miss out on if you tune out. I’m sorry for the middle ages peasant who lost their lives to barbarians because news didn’t come that an invasion was under way. Times have changed. Modern news outlets have flooded all of their credibility through the gates a while ago with their diluted stories that masquerade under the guise of importance.
News’ Measure of Success
You don’t need to be a genius to know that news agencies make money from advertising
Television news does not have a cause besides informing as many people as possible of as many things that might interest someone, even if they can’t use that information. I say Don’t follow the news stations because news is an entertainment to keep us distracted.
As Neil Postman put it in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death in regards to news announcers informing us:
There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly–for that matter, no ball score so tantalizing or weather report so threatening–that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, “Now… this.” The newscaster means that you have thought long enough… and that you must now give your attention to another fragment of news or commercial.
History vs. Current News
I’m sure you’ve heard the say “History repeats itself”. With my recent history fascination and obsession with Hardcore History I’m coming to realize how true this is. Consider. the civilization obliterating campaigns of Genghis Khan, to the actions of radical religious Christian leaders in the 16th century. You will see a lot of connections with ISIS and Boko Haram and how the only difference now is technology. Even so, history sounded waaay more gruesome…
I would argue that it’s just as important to know your past and understand it’s significance to today. I don’t mean memorizing dates/places like you’re forced to in school. I have a whole different bone to settle with the failure of history being taught in schools. But that’ll be a different post. I think people should understand history is the propaganda that has stood the test of time and was written by those that won against their enemies. The history we read is as biased as the news we encounter, but there’s always the other side to it too.
That’s Why I Don’t Follow the News
In The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman, he states
“Trash in, trash out”
Humans are not scalable and neither are our minds. We can only process so much. Let the experts do their thing and when I suddenly need information I’ll reach out to them or research it, but I am NOT letting other people decide what is important for me. I’m not saying to you don’t follow the news but now at least you can begin to understand why I don’t follow the news.
I don’t remember the last time I heard a news piece of urgency and value. That’s what word of mouth is and seeing as it’s just as credible, I’ll stick to that.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got work to do…
This post is very biased by me. If you’d prefer to read a more well put-together argument then I recommend you read Is There Any Reason to Keep Up with the News?