“News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether.”
Rolf Dobelli, in his latest book, “Stop Reading the News,” advises us all and claims that: “News is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which do require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-colored candies for the mind.”
Typically, as a journalist, I should refrain from repeating his idea, and Pasadena Weekly also shouldn’t have published this idea because they targeted our profession and described my colleagues and me as people who have ruined your life.
But I must admit that parts of his book cannot be ignored, mainly, when he refers to the nostalgic family breakfasts of the 1970s, which was marked by excessive enthusiasm for catching up with the news by reading newspapers.
He speaks about the morning newspaper, mid-days radio news, and the nightly television news program. Interestingly, his story about Swiss 40 years ago is very similar to my experience in the heart of the Middle East. Growing up in an Iranian family in one of Tehran’s middle-class neighborhoods, where the newspaper was part of our daily shopping cart, and listening to the 2 o’clock radio news and watching the 9 o’clock news on TV was our most important habit, I feel we are much more similar than we are different. Probably you too.
It does not matter if you spent that time in the United States, China, Korea or South Africa. Our thirst for awareness and technological limitations made us drink every bit of info with craving, unlike today when it is inevitable.
Did you notice the difference in the word choice? My disagreement with Rolf begins when he makes no sharp distinction between “news” and “awareness.” He generalizes about the news, everything that he sees on TV, hears on the radio, reads in the newspapers, and receives moment by moment via his laptop and smartphone. According to his definition, there is no difference between the story of a stuck kitten on a tree and what happens in Minneapolis; or the fact that no one bats an eye at a dispute between a coach and a soccer player. Should one ignore the news of massive wildfires in California?
This is where the difference between news and awareness comes into play. People of that generation followed the news because they were eager for awareness, and the same goes for people before that generation, and comparably for people today. In other words, the goal is not to get the news. The goal is the awareness that results from being exposed to the news, and this is where the theory of “Stop Reading the News” fails. Do you think anyone can manufacture a product while ignoring the need for raw materials?
Let me share my personal experience, not as a journalist, but as a professional news follower. Usually, I follow the news as much as I can. Following the news does not happen in my free time, but I spend the best hours on it. I am sure that my interest in the news has not hindered my creativity, has not poisoned my mind and has not led me astray.
I follow the news because I am looking for awareness, and this awareness has wholly affected the quality of my life. I also have experienced moments of my life in which I believe that the importance of gaining this awareness is multiplied, and these days we are at one of those key moments. We are on the verge of a great event that affects our destiny, the fate of our family and friends, society and even the whole world; and the awareness regarding this is more important than ever.
Let’s not stop reading the news. Let’s not forget critical thinking after reading the news. Let’s do whatever it takes in pursuit of awareness, and let’s not forget the fact that your decision-making procedure won’t be limited to Pasadena and the United States; it can potentially make the whole world a better place to live in.
Meisam Zamanabadi is an Iranian journalist and TV host. He graduated from the University of Tehran in media management and also is a Ph.D. student in media psychology in United States.