Is too much news bad for you?
April 30, 2013 6:51 AM   Subscribe

Rolf Dobelli describes the negative effects of the overconsumption of news. An edited extract of his essay is in the Guardian here and the full text of his argument is here. The text in the Guardian was linked to in a metafilter thread here. According to Dobelli, news misleads, is irrelevant, has no explanatory power, is toxic, increases cognitive errors, inhibits thinking, works like a drug, wastes time, makes us passive and kills creativity. Dobelli has a new book on clear thinking.
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty (39 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
so this is why i yell at the BBC and mutter "komrade katty".
posted by clavdivs at 6:54 AM on April 30, 2013


The older I get, the more it seems that "news" as in e.g. "news"paper is just an endlessly re-packaged knowledge lite-or-absent product, a sort of cognitive cocaine. Sometimes pure, sometimes contaminated, often addictive, giving the feeling of superiority, and always with the illusion that one can stop at any time. Anyway, gotta go read that article in the Guardian now. And, probably, be distracted by the links to other news...
posted by Wordshore at 6:59 AM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


present company excepted, of course
posted by shothotbot at 7:00 AM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think this book was recommended to me on mefi somewhere: The Information Diet. The upshot of the book is that there is nutritious news but it's mostly candy and fast food, which is why most of us need to go on an Information Diet.

There is such a thing as well-written news that enriches the mind, but you do have to look for it.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:02 AM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


My wife used to take 90 day breaks from news. There was another guy who used to save the economist but read it four weeks late, by then most things would have played out and he could skip most of it.
posted by shothotbot at 7:04 AM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


From my own highly unscientific research I can confirm that I feel exponentially more stupid after watching even just a few moments of a local network's nightly news program.

More seriously, I definitely noticed a drop in my mother's objective critical thinking skills after she started watching daytime shows like The View and Dr Oz on a regular basis, although certainly the chemotherapy et al must have had a contributing effect.
posted by elizardbits at 7:05 AM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've found that I tend to skim the news these days versus my old status as a news junkie (pre-CNN). The endless 24 hr news cycle has certainly had an effect in that stories don't have a chance to develop by themselves without the media adding hyperbole. Proper journalism as an art has been devalued in favour of the soundbite.
posted by arcticseal at 7:07 AM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


"News" is like the junk food of information gathering. Reading a book on a topic takes a lot longer than reading a news article, but since you learn something you actually make progress towards understanding. News is sisyphean.
posted by DU at 7:08 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I avoid news a lot of the time because I'm trying to better regulate my stabbiness levels.

When something big happens, like an impending election or mass shooting or bombing, I plug in for a while.

Still, I don't really trust anybody who dedicates his life to telling people how they can ensmartify their thinkage. No thank you, Thinky McThinkerson. You go sell your clear thinking somewhere else.
posted by edheil at 7:08 AM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


The fault I find with most American newspapers is not the absence of dissent. It is the absence of news. With a dozen or so honorable exceptions, most American newspapers carry very little news. Their main concern is advertising.

--I. F. Stone, 1963.
Not all news is the same. Regrettably, most of it is.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:17 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wasn't it in the Boston bombing thread where someone quoted a news anchor saying "Would you care to speculate on our assumptions?"
posted by srboisvert at 7:17 AM on April 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Theres a conflict here between news and journalism. I think you can get good quality journalism even on television reports (but not on rolling news) and certainly in newspapers, but much of it is going to be dross. Also, I might enjoy following certain news stories, particularly political ones, for the sake of narrative rather than a precise knowledge of how the world is.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 7:17 AM on April 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I get the news I need on the weather report.
I can gather all the news I need on the weather report.

— Simon and Garfunkel, "The Only Living Boy in New York"

Regarding Dobelli's point #2, "News is irrelevant," I've often reflected on the wisdom of the lines above: The weather forecast is often the one and only news item that has a practical, immediate effect on my life.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:19 AM on April 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


edheil,

Those two examples you posted are probably the most important times to avoid the news.

People really need be learn how to discern between opinion and actual reporting. As soon as I see opinion masquerading as reporting I cross that news source off my list and never look back. It has served me well, because they only get worse.
posted by any major dude at 7:22 AM on April 30, 2013


"The weather forecast is often the one and only news item that has a practical, immediate effect on my life."
posted by DevilsAdvocate

You obviously don't live in the UK then.

"According to Dobelli, news misleads, is irrelevant, has no explanatory power..."

I agree with this; the way things are being spun on the BBC these days, they really are showing their true colours as the state propaganda arm.
posted by marienbad at 7:27 AM on April 30, 2013


I read the guardian extract. Odd thing to read with sidebars of NEWS NEWS running alongside. It struck me as not unlike TV shows that make fun of TV. See DFW, as always. I spent six years or so away from news. It was great. It's amazing how manageable the world seems when you only focus on problems that are clear and present.
posted by Makwa at 7:30 AM on April 30, 2013


During the recent events in Boston, I made a point to control my news intake. However, on Monday evening, I found myself in a waiting room where I couldn't get away from a news channel. They repeated the same ~2 minutes of information over and over, and I could feel myself becoming simultaneously agitated and narcoticized. It was unpleasant and unnerving. And, since the purpose of news is not to inform you but to get you to watch the news (and, by extension, the ads), it was doing its job, I suppose.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:40 AM on April 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I used to be one of those people that was totally in touch with everything breaking newswise and constantly angry about it. Like I was totally one of those people that'd come lurching into a thread about anything else screaming about drone strikes in Pakistan and applauding myself for being so informed. Then I realized I was spending a lot of time angry about things I had no control of and unplugged and I am so much happier and better off.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:44 AM on April 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


BREAKING: Is Ignorance Bliss?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:48 AM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's cable TV news droning in the background that is the most toxic. That and political talk radio.
posted by stbalbach at 7:49 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found myself in a waiting room where I couldn't get away from a news channel.

I had to switch dentists because my former one always had Fox News blaring in the waiting room and all the other patients thought it was real life truth informations, even before they were laughing gassed/novocained. Watching them nod along with it was more painful than the dental work itself.
posted by elizardbits at 7:58 AM on April 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have been much happier since disengaging from the charade of US political news. This year was the tipping point. The election was over, but these people just kept on going, earnestly pretending that manufactured political crisis like the sequester were real events, deserving of endless analysis and commentary.

The biggest part of this was probably quitting reading politics blogs, which work by manufacturing fresh outrages every day (look at this stupid thing someone said!).
posted by thelonius at 8:01 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: Real Life Truth Informations
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:02 AM on April 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


My grandmother spent the last 10 years of her life relatively well off, but her 3 main habits were cable news channels, chain smoking and crocheting afghans. She was always pissed about something and she could tell you the name of every major player in every political news story. Since 2000, I caught myself slowly turning into a younger version of her, sans chain smoking and crocheting. I finally had to give up.

I realize that there are important things happening on a national and global scale, but all I can do is catch the ones that matter the most, vote responsibly, and go on about my life. I still sign the occasional petition and I will call my rep/senator at the state level on particularly egregious issues, but I have turned off my toxic input from political blogs, cable news programs, etc. I have noticed a positive difference I let myself off the hook for things that I can do nothing about.
posted by PuppyCat at 8:04 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've gradually lost faith in TV news, and I think the straw that broke the camel's back was watching the documentary Spin while working tech support in a classroom. Since then, I've generally become aware that TV news usually does "balance" by putting pairs of professional spokespersons on the screen and trying to goad them into a debate where the anchor alternately champions one side and claims objectivity. The spokespeople selected usually seem like bad actors to me, largely because getting the talking points out seems like a form of performance art.

Written bias bothers me less because without the heightened and pretend emotional affect of video it's easier for me to just skim and move on once I've spotted it.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:15 AM on April 30, 2013


a friend posted a bit from The Daily Show on fb the other day. the bit kept showing clips from Fox News. i was almost physically ill. which doesn't happen easily. i found it hard to believe that a) people actually sat around and thought it was a good idea to say those things (and on tv!) and b) other people agree with the awful things they were saying. (for example, Ann Coulter saying that Tamerlan Tsarnev's widow should be in jail just because she is wearing a hijab. i hope to god there is some sort of context that was taken out of that it makes more sense than that.)

at dinner the other night we ended up talking about all sorts of really gross things while eating and i was more viscerally repelled by the Fox News stuff. i just thought of the people watching, thinking this was a "fact" or agreeing with it, and the horror of it all was just too much. how to you combat that level of hate and ignorance?

news or "news" makes me feel helpless. i just try to keep up via mefi because it is the best filter i have found. sometimes i even take a break from that.
posted by sio42 at 8:24 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had to switch dentists because my former one always had Fox News blaring in the waiting room...


I always make a point to call management in any establishment that forces Fox News on their customers and tell them that I will no longer be patronizing them for that reason. You'd be surprised how quickly it gets switched.
posted by any major dude at 8:39 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


(for example, Ann Coulter saying that Tamerlan Tsarnev's widow should be in jail just because she is wearing a hijab. i hope to god there is some sort of context that was taken out of that it makes more sense than that.)

Yes. The context it was taken out of was "Ann Coulter saying that." It's just the sort of outrageous bullshit she gets paid to say.

What's most shocking about it is that Fox News is still willing to pay for a top-dollar name brand troll when they could get any asshole to do the same for way less.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:42 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here is compendium of local news bites Conan O'Brien's show assembled: you don't need us to tell you gas prices are back on the rise.
posted by bukvich at 8:52 AM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had to switch dentists because my former one always had Fox News blaring in the waiting room...

All good dentists leave a remote control in the waiting room.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 9:22 AM on April 30, 2013


All good dentists leave a remote control in the waiting room.

My dentist wired an antenna into my teeth, and now Cox keeps trying to bill me for the voices in my head!
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:22 AM on April 30, 2013


I've found that as I get older I have found it necessary to start tuning out the noise in my life in order to focus on that which is really important (be it work, family, sanity...whatever). I used to be an NPR junkie with NPR on in the background at work, at home, in my car. I still listen, but far less frequently before, usually only on Sunday or Saturday AMs while cleaning or woring around the house.

I used to read endless political blogs, subscribe to any number of news journals and magazines, but I've stopped most of that. Lack of energy, interest or overload, perhaps.

I think that my brain has reached a certain saturation point, especially with the rate at which news flows any longer. The only way for any particular news source to stand out any longer is to inflame an argument or to purposely take the opposite tack that your audience expects in order to drum up some kind of feigned indignation.
posted by tgrundke at 10:32 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing I find I have absolutely no interest in anymore is general purpose columnists bloviating about what events mean to "us". It turns out that you can get by just fine without some sort of current events sherpa fixing ropes for you!
posted by thelonius at 11:32 AM on April 30, 2013


What's most shocking about it is that Fox News is still willing to pay for a top-dollar name brand troll when they could get any asshole to do the same for way less.

Hey, it takes skill to spew heinous bullshit like that any time, any where, on any topic under the sun. You can get Joe Asshole from the far corner of the bar to pop off a few prime bits on his favorite topic, but pretty soon he'll run out of steam and put his nose back in his beer. No, you need someone with the vigor, endurance, and breadth of lack of knowledge to be a complete asshat all day to all comers. Fox News wants the best worst, that's why they pay Coulter.
posted by echo target at 12:29 PM on April 30, 2013


Hmm, I'm not sure I fully agree with this.

The fact that we cannot change the things we read about is not to me a good reason for not reading about them imho. Neither is the fact that they make is stressed. Dobelli talks about us needing more in-depth investigative journalism. Sure, but that could make us just as stressed. I also don't think that it hurts to have a little breadth as well as depth, we can't go in-depth about everything. We'd surely miss out on that by shutting out the news completely.

I think I see where he is coming from in the sense of "learning about the world" by looking at dramatic things that are happening is potentially misleading. But so much is happening and there is so much to know even without all the dramatic changes- we need some sort of filters. Don't know what the answer is.
posted by mister_kaupungister at 4:21 PM on April 30, 2013


Forget the news, I've cut waaaay back on my social media intake. The constant stream of tweets and posts and texts and blah blah blah. It's nice when friends wish me happy birthday on facebook, but after that I'm good for the year.
posted by freakazoid at 5:01 PM on April 30, 2013


Ok, I think Dobelli's probably right. But how are you supposed to keep up with important stuff and events that affect you and your communities if you only read, I don't know, government handouts and watch TV Commercials? There are issues out there that you want to vote on, spend (or don't) your money on, right? Or do you just hold down the "Democrat" button and pull the lever?

What about exercising your franchise and all that stuff?
posted by sneebler at 7:48 PM on April 30, 2013


Non-snarky answer: Take some time in the days or weeks before the election, and read up on the issues and the candidates' positions on them. You can be informed and vote intelligently without following the news 365 days a year.

Snarky answer: If exercising my franchise means an early grave due to the high blood pressure brought on by constant exposure to OutrageFilter, I'll gladly give up my franchise.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:02 AM on May 1, 2013


The older I get, the more it seems that "news" as in e.g. "news"paper is just an endlessly re-packaged knowledge lite-or-absent product, a sort of cognitive cocaine. Sometimes pure, sometimes contaminated, often addictive, giving the feeling of superiority, and always with the illusion that one can stop at any time. Anyway, gotta go read that article in the Guardian now. And, probably, be distracted by the links to other news...

That's why I only watch PBS news programs, Like The Newshour, Nightly Business Report, McLaughlin Group, yeah still...john's still kicking at 154. Pat Bucannan is a regular, but not as frequent as he use to be, along with Mort Zuchermann...who's like a cool 96 yo 36yo surfer Billionaire... and eleanore clift, this show can be boring or great fun. I even gave up on Stewart and Olbermann. I've come to find, in my older age that it's Ifill or Bust. PBS is the only news source any Red Blooded Patriotic American needs. Plus, there's a game you can play. Everyday Judy Woodruff wears zipper's or buttons. That's the game. Zippers or Buttons. Guess which one. Ha.

As for other websites...well...why would you go anywhere else?
posted by QueerAngel28 at 4:18 PM on May 10, 2013


« Older (^・o・^)ノ”   |   App Art Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments