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News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier | The Guardian


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Rolf Dobelli wrote one of my favorite news stories of all time on April 12, 2013:

News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether.

I include my favorite parts of his article below.

oh i couldn't agree with this more!!  no news IS good news!

And time spent on news could be used for much better things, such as books:

http://pandawhale.com/post/35401/your-brain-has-a-biological-response-to-a-good-book-mnn-mother-nature-network

amen! (as an author, i especially love this study!!)

I think the world would be a better place if more journalists wrote books instead.

Hopefully the economics of ebooks will allow this to happen.

yes.  more books and less news would be awesome.  and indeed, it does need to be financially viable.

or maybe we could be taught to seek good news instead? wouldn't that be something?! journalists could be writing about all the amazing accomplishments and successes going on around the world every day.

i guess that's what we're doing here!!

Yes! Good news isn't news. It's evergreen. That's why we call them stories. :)

evergreen stories... how lovely!

I think so too. Evergreen is the essence of PandaWhale.

I only stash things I would want to see again a year from now.

More on the impoverishment of attention:

http://pandawhale.com/post/36035/the-impoverishment-of-attention

News is irrelevant:

Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business.

The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you. But people find it very difficult to recognise what's relevant. It's much easier to recognise what's new. The relevant versus the new is the fundamental battle of the current age.

Media organisations want you to believe that news offers you some sort of a competitive advantage. Many fall for that. We get anxious when we're cut off from the flow of news. In reality, news consumption is a competitive disadvantage. The less news you consume, the bigger the advantage you have.

News not Noise! Energetically we feed off of what we see, read, and hear. 

James, that's right. Human minds are feedback loops, so we should feed them well.

News has no explanatory power:

News items are bubbles popping on the surface of a deeper world.

Will accumulating facts help you understand the world? Sadly, no. The relationship is inverted. The important stories are non-stories: slow, powerful movements that develop below journalists' radar but have a transforming effect.

The more "news factoids" you digest, the less of the big picture you will understand. If more information leads to higher economic success, we'd expect journalists to be at the top of the pyramid. That's not the case.

News is toxic to your body:

It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones.

In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitisation.

News increases cognitive errors:

News feeds the mother of all cognitive errors: confirmation bias.

In the words of Warren Buffett: "What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact."

News exacerbates this flaw. We become prone to overconfidence, take stupid risks and misjudge opportunities. It also exacerbates another cognitive error: the story bias.

Our brains crave stories that "make sense" – even if they don't correspond to reality. Any journalist who writes, "The market moved because of X" or "the company went bankrupt because of Y" is an idiot. I am fed up with this cheap way of "explaining" the world.

News inhibits thinking:

Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time.

News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers. But it's worse than that.

News severely affects memory. There are two types of memory. Long-range memory's capacity is nearly infinite, but working memory is limited to a certain amount of slippery data. The path from short-term to long-term memory is a choke-point in the brain, but anything you want to understand must pass through it. If this passageway is disrupted, nothing gets through.

Because news disrupts concentration, it weakens comprehension. Online news has an even worse impact. In a 2001 study two scholars in Canada showed that comprehension declines as the number of hyperlinks in a document increases. Why? Because whenever a link appears, your brain has to at least make the choice not to click, which in itself is distracting. News is an intentional interruption system.

The same can be said for email and the Facebook news feed.

News works like a drug:

As stories develop, we want to know how they continue. With hundreds of arbitrary storylines in our heads, this craving is increasingly compelling and hard to ignore.

Scientists used to think that the dense connections formed among the 100 billion neurons inside our skulls were largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. Today we know that this is not the case. Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. The more news we consume, the more we exercise the neural circuits devoted to skimming and multitasking while ignoring those used for reading deeply and thinking with profound focus.

Most news consumers – even if they used to be avid book readers – have lost the ability to absorb lengthy articles or books. After four, five pages they get tired, their concentration vanishes, they become restless. It's not because they got older or their schedules became more onerous. It's because the physical structure of their brains has changed.

News wastes time: 

If you read the newspaper for 15 minutes each morning, then check the news for 15 minutes during lunch and 15 minutes before you go to bed, then add five minutes here and there when you're at work, then count distraction and refocusing time, you will lose at least half a day every week.

Information is no longer a scarce commodity. But attention is. You are not that irresponsible with your money, reputation or health. Why give away your mind?

That last point truly resonated with me.

Less news and less multitasking and more evergreen content seems like a better recipe.

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, but this topic "truly resonates" with me as well. I will try to pay less attention to news in 2014!

Excellent resolution, John!

Surprisingly, the Dalai Lama consumes lots of news as part of his daily routine:

http://pandawhale.com/post/64288/the-dalai-lamas-daily-routine-and-information-diet

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