Breaking News (Habit)

My thoughts on “Stop Reading the News: A Manifesto for a Happier, Calmer and Wiser Life” where Rolf Dobelli makes a case for not reading or watching news

In the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the amount of news (and related analysis) generated. With the easy availability of 24/7 internet and ever accessible smart devices – every hour is news hour and we consume a lot more news than we were a few years ago. It makes us feel informed; it makes us feel in control; it makes us believe that we understand the world better (or won’t understand it as well otherwise) and hence make better decisions in life. Or do we?

In his book “Stop Reading the News: A Manifesto for a Happier, Calmer and Wiser Life”, author and thinker Rolf Dobelli argues that news is bad for our health and happiness, is a waste of time and hinders creativity and deep thinking. We should give up news completely.

He argues that news is irrelevant at best and misleading at worst. It feeds our cognitive biases and hampers critical thinking. It is mostly entertainment and does not add any real value to our lives. The content covered in news stories rarely reflects what is important to the reader; its sole purpose is attracting attention rather than educating the reader or bringing to their notice what is important or meaningful. The advertisement driven business model of news companies is based on serving an incessant stream of news stories so you are hooked and are spending more time on them. This gives them the opportunity to know more about you, so that their smart algorithms can serve more additive content. This also enables them to gather as much information about you as possible to have more targeted advertising. The way news is created and served, which is a consequence of this business model, results in it promoting hurried reading and shallow thinking – rather than deep thought and in-depth analysis.

While there are no significant benefits of spending time on news, there is a very consequential opportunity cost. Time spent on tracking news is time not spent on developing expertise in our “circle of competence”. We live in times where deep expertise in one “narrow” domain can result in disproportionate financial as well as non-financial rewards. You are much better off having deep knowledge of your chosen domain rather than knowing, in a shallow way, what is happening all around the world. This opportunity cost is too high to ignore.

If not news then what? For sure, we cannot close our eyes and ears to what is happening all around us. Rolf recommends focusing on well researched, long form articles and books that present deep analysis to help you understand the world better in all its complexities, and has useful insights. Focus on what is relevant and of interest to you. And if you must, restrict yourself to one news publication – that to for a limited time per week. Have allocated “news time” and stick to that. It would not be easy, but it’s worth it.

The news industry is society’s appendix – permanently inflamed and completely pointless

All self respecting journalists should steer clear of news journalism, just as no chef who takes pride in his work would start a career at McDonalds.

Also See: Rolf Dobelli’s Ted Talk: Four Reasons to Stop Watching the News

Stop Reading the News: A Manifesto for a Happier, Calmer and Wiser Life, published by Spectre in February 2020, is available for purchase here

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