We avoid news fairly thoroughly — no television, no newspapers, no newsmagazines, no Google News. That frees up the time to learn and to discover. For example, the time to discover that Bryan Caplan and Rolf Dobelli share a similar perspective: “News is to the mind what sugar is to the body” to quote Dobelli’s 2010 paper Avoid News: Towards a Healthy News Diet.
By and large, I think news is a waste of time. If I want to increase my factual knowledge, I read history – or Wikipedia. News, I like to say, is the lie that something important happens every day.
Most people think my position is crazy, even for me. I was surprised to learn, then, that someone even more anti-news than me got to present his arguments at TED. A few of his arguments are silly, and more are poorly documented. But the best parts of the paper that inspired the TED talk are excellent. From Rolf Dobelli’s paper “Avoid News” [PDF]:
News is irrelevant.
Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career, your business – compared to what you would have known if you hadn’t swallowed that morsel of news.
Assume that, against all odds, you found one piece of news that substantially increased the quality of your life – compared to how your life would have unfolded if you hadn’t read or seen it. How much trivia did your brain have to digest to get to that one relevant nugget? Even that question is a hindsight analysis. Looking forward, we can’t possibly identify the value of a piece of news before we see it, so we are forced to digest everything on the news buffet line. Is that worthwhile? Probably not.
In 1914, the news story about the assassination in Sarajevo dwarfed all other reports in terms of its global significance. But, the murder in Sarajevo was just one of several thousand stories in circulation that day. No news organization treated this historically pivotal homicide as anything more than just another politically inspired assassination.
This article is the antidote to news. It is long, and you probably won’t be able to skim it. Thanks to heavy news consumption, many people have lost the reading habit and struggle to absorb more than four pages straight. This article will show you how to get out of this trap – if you are not already too deeply in it.