News: a poor quality distraction

98329748_a947300152_bTwo related articles about news and distraction lately.

(1): America’s junk news binge epidemic:

We in the media have spent decades turning the news into a consumer business that’s basically indistinguishable from selling cheeseburgers or video games. You want bigger margins, you just cram the product full of more fat and sugar and violence and wait for your obese, over-stimulated customer to come waddling forth.

(2): Addicted to distraction:

ONE evening early this summer, I opened a book and found myself reading the same paragraph over and over, a half dozen times before concluding that it was hopeless to continue. I simply couldn’t marshal the necessary focus.

I was horrified… Instead of reading [books], I was spending too many hours online, checking the traffic numbers for my company’s website, shopping for more colorful socks on Gilt and Rue La La, even though I had more than I needed, and even guiltily clicking through pictures with irresistible headlines such as “Awkward Child Stars Who Grew Up to Be Attractive.”

This is familiar territory to us here at arbitrary constant. It’s been nearly two years since I shared how I was feeling about news and media.

The crux of my reflections was this:

But even with spending so much time consuming [news and media] I was left none the wiser. I felt like I still didn’t understand what was going on. In my mind I couldn’t answer questions such as: why is what’s happening happening? How and why did we get here? Where are we going? Why are we going here and not there? What can the past tell us about why here may be better than there and what we might be able to learn about the options for getting there?

I had reached a dead end. Or, rather, I had so many choices of which direction to go in that I went nowhere.

The rest of the post explores what remains a fantastic essay by Ralf Dobelli, “Avoid News: towards a healthy news diet” (pdf), which:

provided me with some thoughts as to why I was feeling that way. His argument gives 15 reasons on why news is bad for us, including: news systematically misleads us, news limits our understanding, news massively increases cognitive errors and news inhibits thinking.

It’s an essay and way of thinking I can’t recommend highly enough.

How has it gone? To a large extent I’ve managed to alter my news consumption and instead switched to reading more books (you can see what I’ve been reading on my Libib Library). I occasionally find myself slipping back into old ways, though – especially when it comes to Twitter – and so am hoping to refocus a bit more in order to

pursue the things that interest me and my mind – giving myself chance and space to be curious, to think, to create and to be.

Reading these two articles was a timely reminder of this intent. I’ll let you know how I get on!