News Articles: Are You Better Off Without Them?

What’s something you consider necessary and consume every day but might be harmful to you? Carbs? Sugar? Caffeine? No. It’s a rather unusual thing. Read on.

The last time you read the newspaper might be today morning. The last time you came across a news story on your phone was probably seconds ago. But when was the last time a piece of news helped you make a better decision in your life?

If you read a news article about a bridge collapse, it’s almost always the case that the focus is on the lives lost and the property damaged. Whether the injured survived? Where did they come from and what did they do? Sure human life is precious but there are other more relevant questions to be asked about the incident. It happens very rarely that the articles or you as an educated and aware reader, focus on those questions – Do all bridges like this one have the same structural liability? Are other commuters at a risk? What can and should be done about this?

Over time, the media has morphed to exaggerate negative news while using flashy titles and lines to capture attention, often skipping out on reporting important facts that could help you make better decisions. While traditional media houses excuse themselves by labelling “The dawn of internet consumerism” as “Tough competition to beat”, online news outlets have grown to be examples of Yellow Journalism themselves. This can be harmful especially if news consumers lack good reasoning and don’t know what news to skip.

Journalism is centred on what’s happening and not on what isn’t. No reporter ever says “I’m reporting from a country where no war has broken out”. The continuous focus on negativity and reports on crime, war, natural disasters, diseases, drug abuse and oppression have shown to cause anger and symptoms of acute stress among news-consumers. People have been reported to experience anxiety, mood swings, aggression and sleeplessness. How often do you see news covering positive developments? Most programs on news channels which do are slotted during the daytime on weekends when very few people tune in. As news stories and journalism grow, they establish in people’s minds that the world is becoming a worse place every day. With traffic and your diet to worry about, you don’t want to think about that.

The Guardian rightly states, “The nature of news is likely to distort people’s view of the world because of a mental bug – that people estimate the probability of an event or the frequency of a kind of thing by the ease with which instances come to mind. But whenever a memory turns up high in the result list of the mind’s search engine for reasons other than frequency – because it is recent, vivid, gory, distinctive, or upsetting—people will overestimate how likely it is in the world.”

This may be the reason that you think that the number of rape cases is higher than the number of suicides in India when in reality, the number of suicides is 4 times the number of rape cases. Thus, news creates a bias that may cloud your judgement.

Another dangerous aspect of news is the rate at which we are consuming it. Millennial, with their smart gadgets and lightning fast access to everything online, consume thousands of news pieces a week in the forms of articles, bubbles, messages and even memes. Without appropriate discretion, this constant bombardment of information is bound to decrease both our patients and our attention spans. Daily news should give us some food for thought and stimulate our minds. However, our daily share comes from tabloids which want to sell you bogus wrapped up as entertainment. The situation is worse if the media outlets one follows write only about Hollywood reality TV stars (You know what I mean.)

So how would you remain sane? I’m not suggesting to cut yourself off the news. It is little extreme a measure to take or be wanting to take in our ever-connected and informed generation. After all, the news is our window to the world and keeps the book of history refreshed in our memory. The solution to the problem lies partly in being aware of the harms of excess news consumption and partly in modified and responsible journalism. While the awareness helps you build a robust discretion and understanding, the sound journalism should ease your efforts in doing that. While you may think that you’d do your part in vain as journalism worsens, the truth is that you can influence journalism to change – not only by giving your time to the stories that matter but also sharing only those with others.


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