Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Is the news bad for us?

I just ran across an article on The Guardian that was explaining how news is bad for us. The title of the article is "News is bad for you--and giving up reading it will make you happier." The title definitely piqued my interest because I think it is very true.

You see, I don't read or watch much of the news. In any conversation, I will probably be the one who knows the least about what is going on around our country and around the world. There is a part of me that has wondered if I am a bad citizen or neighbor because I don't follow the news. I still don't know for sure. However, I do think that much of the news is really not all that beneficial to any of us.

Consider what the Guardian article suggests. It gives 10 reasons why the news can be bad for us:
1. News misleads
2. News is irrelevant
3. News has no explanatory power
4. News is toxic to your body
5. News increases cognitive errors
6. News inhibits thinking
7. News works like a drug
8. News wastes time
9. News makes us passive
10. News kills creativity
All this reminds me of some thoughts Neil Postman has in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death. He points out that news, education, politics, etc have all basically become forms of entertainment. He believes news is a collection of decontextualized facts that we cannot do much about:
"How often does it occur that information provided you on morning radio or television, or in the morning newspaper, causes you to alter your plans for the day, or to take some action you would not otherwise have taken or provides insight into some problem you are required to solve?...most of our daily news is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action.”

...What steps do you plan to take to reduce the conflict in the Middle East? Or the rates of inflation, crime or unemployment? ...What do you plan to do about NATO, OPEC, the CIA, affirmative action, and the monstrous treatment of Baha'is in Iran? I shall take the liberty of answering for you: You plan to do nothing about them.

...We have here a great loop of impotence: The news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except to offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing."
What do you think?