This essay was written by me, Brandon Nolet, in the context that I think that I try too hard to keep up with the news. I’m sure many others do as well.
It’s, I think, obvious that the word news is simply the plural of the word new. Really, the news is just a compilation of a bunch of things that changed in a given day. It happens daily, or at least it used to only happen daily, and many people take the time to consume the reports of these changes. Trust me, there’s a point to this.
So every day people are constantly consuming compilations of what’s new in the world, or local community, or country, or whathaveyou. People sit down and watch reporters on TV roll by as the news gets reported. And then people go to their computers, and search for more information about these new things that are happening. They search for more new things to learn about a given thing that changed in a day.
Keeping up with the news has almost turned into a hobby for so many people that it seems to be turning into a pattern. The news comes out, the story rolls for a few days, and then a new story comes by and pulls everybody’s attention into that. It’s a constantly repeating cycle that means that nobody really gets to focus on a single issue.
There’s so much news out there that no one person could ever keep up with it all. Yet people try, and fail, to keep up with the news. People get bombarded and overwhelmed so often with information that it’s no wonder that one of the biggest issues in mental health these days are related to focus, energy, and direction.
I’ve written before about dopamine and how it’s part of our reward system mentally and it certainly comes into play here. When you see something new or novel, you get a hit of dopamine. When you watch the news, you’re being bombarded with novel information, triggering that reward system over and over. It’s like having an orgasm button but instead of an orgasm, you’re just getting more and more addicted without the feeling of pleasure!
Then, this bombardment of information trains you to seek more informaiton. That same dose of dopamine soon loses its effect on you and you need to learn more about a given news story. You’re curious beyond belief and you have to know more. This is fantastic when you’re a student, but not so good in the context of the news. It also doesn’t help when most of the news today is about bad things that happen.
But what do we really get from keeping up with the news? 95% of the things you learn about on the news never directly affects any individual person(don’t quote me on that statistic). There’s not one piece of news that I’ve consumed, in the past month or so, that directly affects anything in my day to day life. In fact, I’d say that the only effect on my life that news has had is that it’s made me more paranoid, more pessimistic, and more of a social pariah. This is because of the bias towards the more shocking and more terrifying stories that are out there from both consumers and producers of the news.
So we spend all this time consuming the news, taxing our brains with all the worry and anxiety that comes with that kind of life, and for what? Yes it’s nice to have a conversation about the local sports team win with Becky at the water cooler conversations. But where do you think conversations would go if you both read the same novel over the next 2 weeks instead of consuming the news?
When calculating whether an investment is worth making, you calculate what the Return on Investment is. This is the balance of what you gain as a result of the time or money you’re investing in a given thing whether it be a project, an item, etc. Calculate what your ROI of consuming the news is. Is it worth the time and/or money invested, or are you just throwing your time into the drain? What do you get out of consuming the news; figure out if it’s what you want.