I published a version of this article a couple of years ago when the Boston Marathon bombings happened. In light of yesterday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, I’m republishing this (and jumping back on my sabbatical).
I am a bit of a news junkie in that I find myself checking news sites probably a dozen times a day. It’s part habit, part entertainment and part curiosity. But more and more I find myself annoyed and really kind of disgusted with traditional media.
Back in 2013, The Guardian (surprisingly) published *News is bad for you — and giving up reading it will make you happier* and it really snapped a lot of things in to perspective for me. Things that, upon reading the article, seemed obvious but just hadn’t clicked before.
There are two things that really bother me about my little news addiction…enough so that I feel I need to take some time off from consuming it, possibly permanently.
When the news started spreading about the San Bernardino shootings, I immediately started checking as many news sources as I could. Feverishly refreshing pages trying to get the latest information. Looking for photos and videos to try and piece together what happened.
But not once did I have a sinking feeling in my stomach. Not once did my mind go to all the people who were injured or killed and wonder what they and their families might be going through and how I could help. I just wanted more information and “the story.”
I’m desensitized to many of the highs and lows of humanity because I consume so much of it in the context of emotionless news articles.
And that scares me.
It’s unbalanced and misleading
There are so many things the news never covers. Not because they don’t have the resources to cover it, but because they don’t have any reason to. Certain types of stories simply get better ratings than others, and I can’t blame them. News outlets are businesses. They will always be biased towards whatever makes them the most money.
But consuming biased sources makes you, wait for it…biased.
It notoriously highlights the negative and buries the positive. The negative and the dramatic are far more entertaining because it makes it easy for us to think “I’m glad that’s not me.”
But even in grossly over emphasizing the negative, news outlets bury or never cover some of the most epic failures of humanity.
Two people dying from the bird flu can set off a worldwide panic, but the fact that 2.5 million people (over half of which are children) die every year from diarrhea…who cares. It’s old news. And nobody wants to read articles about diarrhea anyways.
Or what about human trafficking? 27 million people are being bought, sold and traded like baseball cards. But that’s depressing. And I don’t know any slaves, so what does it matter?
Orphans? 150 million.
Lack of clean water? 800 million.
But all of these stories get relegated to random “specials” on Dateline or 60 Minutes once a year.
These are issues that, as the richest country on earth, we could literally end now, but the media chooses to use their platform to talk about things that are largely irrelevant and unactionable to us.
So, I need make my move to fix that. I need to spend time resensitizing myself. I need to spend time finding out ways I can actually do something about global issues affecting humanity. And right now, ending my consumption of traditional news is the first step towards that.