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Posts Tagged ‘news fast’

The Guardian published an article earlier this week that struck me as timely and pertinent: “News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier.” Author Rolf Dobelli points out that a steady diet of news is unhealthy because       “. . . most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind.”

He posits that most news is misleading (because the importance of most stories is distorted), irrelevant to our daily lives (because the headline grabbing stuff is usually not going to impact ordinary people), shallow (because it’s delivered quickly without much analysis), even toxic (because it triggers stress responses). And that it inhibits creativity, concentration, and clear thinking and encourages “learned helplessness.”

Yes, it’s ironic that a major newspaper ran this story (although one that does publish the in-depth analysis, investigative journalism, and other well researched, carefully prepared stories Dobelli explains are better for us). His contention that news is like a drug is hard to take, especially since I have an app on my iPhone called NPR Addict and I feel a little itchy if I haven’t checked the New York Times by breakfast. But after spending much of last week following the bombing and manhunt in Boston I have to agree with Dobelli — I felt like I knew very little but had taken in too much.

Dobelli recommends reading long journal articles and books, and consuming little to no “news” as it is currently delivered. Which complicates things, since most of the media the bookconscious household reads and listens to produce both short and long form journalism. I haven’t worked out a way to limit myself to the one without also taking in a fair bit of the other. Like eating well, it’s probably a matter of forming good habits.

In the instances where I’ve tried a “news fast” (several creativity books recommend this) I have noticed that I don’t miss  headlines or evolving news stories, but I do miss interesting articles about things that are new to me or local pieces like this Concord Monitor story about a woman who is opening a “sober living facility” for people who’ve finished residential addiction treatment and need a supportive community. If I stop reading the news altogether I’ll miss good things happening in the world, and that is an important part of a healthy news diet.

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