While reading a blog entry this weekend, I clicked on a link to an absolutely brilliant article on The Guardian by Rolf Dobelli called News is bad for you. I read the entire article and then saw it was adapted from a much longer article that you can read here on Dobelli’s website. I’d recommend reading the longer version if you have time—though, at the very least, do consider reading the shorter version on The Guardian.
As someone who used to avidly read the news in English, then avidly read it in two languages (English and Russian), then read it a bit less avidly in Russian, and now doesn’t read nearly as much news now, I absolutely loved the article.
Dobelli makes the following points for why reading the news is bad. I’ve copied them from the longer article I linked to—I don’t think the shorter version hits all of these points. I’m also not going to explain all of them because I want you to read the full article. 🙂
- News misleads us systematically
- News is irrelevant
- News limits understanding
- News is toxic to your body
- News massively increases cognitive errors
- News inhibits thinking
- News changes the structure of your brain
- News is costly
- News sunders the relationship between reputation and achievement
- News is produced by journalists
- Reported facts are sometimes wrong, forecasts always
- News is manipulative
- News makes us passive
- News gives us the illusion of caring
- News kills creativity
Though I can relate to all of these points, number thirteen resonated with me the most. Realizing that I couldn’t influence things I care about—the war in Ukraine is a prime example because, let’s face it, I’m not a policymaker and even if I were, I’d probably have to follow orders from someone higher up in policy circles—used to make me sad. Ever since I stopped obsessively following this event, I have felt much better.
Another important point is number eight. By “news is costly,” Dobelli means that reading the news consumes a lot of time. I second this. And if you think reading the news is a time suck, try blogging about it, too. That’s part of the reason why I’ve gradually moved away from blogging about Russian politics. With all the other stuff I have going on (writing, violin playing, and, you know, my actual full-time job), it was just taking up too much time and making me stressed.
Dobelli’s solution is to cut reading the news out of your life entirely. I haven’t managed to do that quite yet. I still read about culture-related stuff on many major Russian news websites. I also follow quite a few Russian news outlets on Twitter, so every time I pull up my Twitter feed, I see something related to current events. I’m tempted to stick all of my Russian news sources into a Twitter list so I have to actively click to see those tweets. After all, if I realize that I don’t want to be completely cut off from news, it’s pretty easy to go back to reading it. (And at this point, a break probably would be beneficial because I’m studying for my first professional certification and really need to study more.)
I want to emphasize that neither I nor Dobelli, the author of this fabulous essay, advocate being ignorant. Dobelli recommends reading more substantial works, such as intellectually-minded magazines like Science, Nature,, and The New Yorker, as well as books. I fully support reading books and certain magazines. (I’m partial to Discover and National Geographic myself.) I’ve been working on the same two books for a while now because I keep getting distracted with other things. Nevertheless, I’m pleased with my reading progress this year.
What do you think? Do you read the news? Do you plan to stop reading it after seeing these arguments?