Stop Reading the News – Rolf Dobelli
Six-word-story: News: illusion of understanding the world.
Ask yourself: what are the ten most important news articles from the last month? Most struggle to recall five (excluding sport). Rolf Dobelli—previously a self-proclaimed news addict who has now been cold turkey and thriving for a decade—questions society’s glut for this phenomenon when it does little (to nothing) in enhancing our worldly understanding, merely fuelling anxiety. With an absence of news, his manifesto for a ‘happier, calmer and wiser life’ feels more poignant and timelier than ever in the thralls of a global pandemic. Populations desperately scrolling and ingesting every last bulletin in hope and in vain of making sense of a world which suddenly makes no sense at all. Dobelli confirms, ‘our brains are desperate for stories that “make sense” as quickly and simply as possible’. News corporations exploit and sate this desire, constructing pseudo-stories emitting a false sense of comprehension, eliminating nuances and unwholesomely dishonouring the bigger picture. The news focuses on events detached from wider context; you may gobble down all the latest reports and facts of war in the Middle East but won’t get any closer to truly understanding the war. The news champions cursory, frenzied, superficial and distracted learning. This, in turn, actually alters our brain structure, producing shallow thinkers with a critical dearth of concentration. In contrast, deep reading—in the form of a thought-through non-fiction book and quality investigative or explanatory journalism—fuels clear, democratic thought. Thomas Jefferson sensed this over 200 years ago: ‘The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them’. Why, then, do we continue doing so with such feverish lust? Dobelli calls out our additional human tendency of feeling a need to form opinions on everything. So, we consume news in attempt to fashion what we believe is a well-rounded opinion; to bolster identity. Are you a ‘remoaner’ or ‘brexiteer’? God forbid if you teeter, inconclusively, on the fence. Yet remember, you are at liberty to withdraw from the relentless flood of opinionated, self-righteous babble. To take a salubrious step-back from your noisy news feeds; honour ambiguity and complexity; embrace a happier, calmer and wiser life. I challenge you.