The Needed Extreme: No News At All

There was a moment of time recently where there was nothing to do for 5 minutes. Of course I reached for my phone. But this time, it was to read one of the good blogs I use to read from but had abandoned for social media scrolling.

The corrective behavior paid off immediately.

When I saw the title of the blog post by respected New Testament and early Christianity scholar Scot McKnight, “News Consumption and Your Health,” I immediately clicked on his post.

I then immediately purchased the book he brought up in his post.

The book, Stop Reading The News: A Manifesto For A Happier, Calmer and Wiser Life by Rolf Dobelli, is not mincing words in its title. It is a call for a complete cold turkey stoppage of consuming the news, printed, televised, over the radio, and on the internet.

Full stop.

Rolf hasn’t consumed the news in a decade.

Who is this guy that can make such a demand?! Well, he’s a philosophy Phd and a serial entrepreneur and author of several books.

Not some guy on Reddit.

Scot McKnight in his introductory post about Rolf’s book didn’t have to do much to tug at the increased sensitivity I’ve garnered regarding the intentional hijacking of our attention and all of it’s terrible side effects.

McKnight leads off his post with this statement, talking about journalists of which he admires but the business of which has snared them. “The task today is all but impossible with everything controlled more and more by ads, and ads controlled by clicks, and clicks by … well, what provokes and irritates. The profession of newswriting has been compromised by the business of news.

He is correct about the deviant force ads have become regarding the forced manipulation of presenting the news. Provoking the outrage inside of a human instead of presenting arguments in a nuanced fashion or reporting on positive change has turned out to sell more ads, and as a result, the business of news and the acceleration of the attention economy trips our outrage wire and dials up the heat.

Social media networks have done nothing of course to calm the outrage. It is the reciprocal relationship between the news industry and social media companies now which have fanned the flames of the turned up heat. Bad news leading off the 6 o’clock news or an editorial board wordsmithing an event negatively in order to capture attention (sell more papers, keep people glued to the tv) is not a new phenomenon of course. It’s the acceleration of internet social media platforms which have caused an arms race to the bottom of the pile for negativity, fear mongering, worst case scenarios and more, which is the status quo of news (any side of any political spectrum you fancy yourself towards).

I’ll be writing about this remarkably short book in posts to come. But suffice to say, it starts out with it’s main directive and solution first, and even encourages the reader to stop there if you’re in agreement already.

Dobelli literally tells us all to stop reading the news. Full stop. Period. Done.

The rest of the book argues in detail why this is the prescription. Again, I will rely on several points he highlights in future posts of mine, but none of them are shocking to me anymore.

They are completely in line with what I’ve observed in myself, behavior I’ve witnessed in others, and the contrasts I’ve recorded in people I know who are either on social media all day consuming news voraciously or people who are pleasantly absent social media all together and lost in long reads, magazines, books, or simply living out their lives.

This will be a remarkably difficult challenge Dobelli presents. Yet. This excites me because it is something I’ve always tended towards but have felt caught up in the acceleration life of breaking news red banners and beating people to the punch in knowing something before someone else….for whatever reason.

What I’ve felt more compelling inside myself yet lacking in execution is picking up a book instead of the latest from CNN or Fox News.

There is an odd tradeoff I feel not being informed about things right now versus something that has already occurred but has been properly researched and diagnosed by an expert. I tend to agree way more with the latter than the former. Yet my execution is lacking.

I don’t see it lacking moving forward as I take up Dobelli’s call.

This book will simply reinforce what I’ve always known. Read a classic, read about the Russian Revolution (or the French Revolution), read about the Iraq War, read about Jimi Hendrix.

Don’t read the news. It’s just there to outrage you and I.

Published by David Mieksztyn

I am a writer passing along what I've learned.

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