Here are the ten things you need to know about why news is bad for you

News is irrelevant. News is toxic to your body. News has no explanatory power. News increases cognitive errors.

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.

I have developed a new reflex: in addition to the one where, any time I see a headline ending in a question mark I mentally shout "NO!" and don't read the article, I also find that any time I see a headline that promises me "Everything you need to know about..." the voice yells at me, "YOU DON'T NEED TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THAT!" and I move on.

Thank you again, voice inside my head.

Previously, previously.

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13 Responses:

  1. It also sucks you into twitter feeds late at night contributing to your insomnia. Blah.

  2. Chris says:

    Add "You don't know which part of the news is wrong" to this: http://yarchive.net/blog/accuracy.html

    • Nick Lamb says:

      Mostly it's reasonable to assume that only the fine details in the news story are wrong. Of course all the fine details are wrong, but that doesn't harm the general thrust of the story, right? Like a Radio Yerevan joke.

      "Is it true that in Moscow, Mercedes cars are being given to citizens?"
      "In principle yes, but is not Moscow but Leningrad, not Mercedes but Ladas, and not given to but stolen from."

  3. Andy Goth says:

    Now I need to ask my reporter friend to write an article entitled, "Is News Bad For You?"

  4. Ian says:

    Is it just me who thinks that albums entitled "The Essential (insert artist's name)" are probably blank?

  5. phuzz says:

    There's something a bit off about the whole article, starting with the fact aht it's in (on) a newspaper (a newspaper's website).

    Also, as a sysadmin, keeping up with the tech news is helpful to me.

    • Pavel Lishin says:

      I think that things like tech news, for the most part, are immune from this - we read for facts, not for whatever it is people get out of hearing up-to-the-second updates about the Boston bombers, or a celebrity's tits.

      • jwz says:

        Bwaaahahahahahahahaha!! Snerk!

        Oh wait. You weren't joking.

        Well, enjoy your bubble.

        • Jeremy Wilson says:

          Maybe he means "blogs" or "articles" versus "news". Because yes, "tech news" like TechCrunch is total bullshit, but there's tons of useful tech blogs and articles.

  6. Chris says:

    Also nobody's pointed it out (maybe because it's so obvious), but the "ten things" format is funny because it's such a news cliche.

  7. Nate says:

    I agree completely. I make reading the news a once-a-week or less kind of thing. I'll sit down for an hour and read a few legitimate sources, looking for factual things I need to act on (donate, write a letter, etc.) or adopt to (new laws). I don't read anything scandalous or attention grabbing.

    Mostly it's about knowing what is your responsibility and what isn't. Cleanup day at my local park? Make a note on my calendar. Bombing in Boston? I'm not the FBI -- I'll check back in in a few weeks and see if they've caught someone.

  8. gryazi says:

    Screw the metaphysics, but yeah, gotta love that inforush, when it's good info. I wonder if specialists are wired differently, because they sure like to ride with blinders on sometimes.

    I think the most insidious aspect is actually that the constant firehose serves to remind that there are billions of people in the world and many of them are already doing anything you could think of doing with better skills and or resources or blah blah blah than you can dream of having. The technical 'arts and crafts movement' I've bemoaned seems like a reaction to this in terms of trying to shrink the world to a manageable size, but bespoke wheel manufacture ... is a fine hobby, but people who do not react to it viscerally as an economic theory I guess I will never relate to.

    Or I could just be grumpy and drifting off-topic because my inability to relax is developing into some sort of finely-honed point.

    On-topic: I'm still trying to figure out if losing interest in books (particularly long fiction) is actually a bad thing. Feels less like random Wikipedia surfing is distracting and shiny than that I've already read most things available and Relevant to My Interests, and I end up dropping things fast if they do not hit me with some of that sweet, sweet "ideas I would never have thought of" sugar by the end of the second chapter. Craft lit is all about the filigree that a particular artist can put on Predictable Human Situations, and SF&F seems to cleave into "really adolescent ideas about war" and/or petty feuds-and-romance stuff that results if the author leaves out a universal source of dramatic tension.

    This feels awkwardly like the sort of thing one of the characters in Pattern Recognition would write [and the only reason Gibson still holds my attention is that it takes a couple reads to figure out what the fuck was supposed to have been going on beneath all the set-and-setting setup].

    • billions of people in the world and many of them are already doing anything you could think of doing with better skills and or resources

      yes.

      my inability to relax is developing into some sort of finely-honed point.

      and, yes.