News is bad for you

by Viv Cole on April 19, 2013

A really thought-provoking article by Ralf Dobelli (based on a longer essay) about information overload and in particular, news. To pick out some headlines, “news inhibits thinking, kills creativity, makes us passive and wastes time”. So if Dobelli’s arguments are valid, why would anyone read or watch the news?

One big factor is that everyone consumes news because they think that other important people do. There is a social pressure not to be exposed as being ignorant of something. Who would not want the reputation for being well-informed? Not that news actually appears to achieve this – when was the last time the news actually helped you make an important decision?

As a trainee accountant I was often exhorted to read the business pages of the newspapers as that’s what clients would be reading and it was what they would expect of a business advisor. For professionals there is the additional layer that much of what you do day to day is confidential, so being able to talk about things in the news represents a safe way that you can talk with your clients in a wider or deeper way than simply the tasks at hand. As news is in the public domain by definition, it represents a source of safe topics to kick off conversations which hopefully lead to greater rapport and trust.

However, I believe that Dobelli is right to expose rolling news as toxic. If people  start many of their conversations from a perspective of bad things that make them feel powerless, is this helpful? This gloom can only help perpetuate the flat economic performance we’re seeing.

UK plc needs people to think more deeply, creatively and relate to each less superficially, and most of all to break out of the negative mindset that too much news consumption engenders. Our challenge is to go out and create positive news and enjoy the paradox that our success stories probably won’t make it into the news 😉

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