I haven’t watched the news in over three years.

Yes, I’m living in a bubble. We all are, but mine is a bit smaller. More controlled.

It’s not that I don’t care about our world, but we’re not designed to keep up with this level of information coming in from all directions. It sometimes feels too much because it is too much.

I still remember how hard it was to resist the temptation to get another small dose of the daily external drama, perhaps to be a good and informed citizen, but more likely because it was easier to visit the news site one more time than to focus on what I truly wanted in life.

That said, I’m still relatively well informed nowadays, but from sources that don’t use drama or stressing headlines suggesting the world will end every other week.

There are many reasons to abandon this stream of negative and stressful facts. Here are mine.

Almost all news are negative

Haven’t you noticed it? They all present the world like it will end tomorrow (tragically, of course).

I understand that negative news has an important role in our society. It can make us react to things and reflect on our problems, but there are also good things happening all the time.

For example, just in the last 14 days, I’ve read that a glowing dye might help surgeons eradicate prostate cancer more easily (ref), and there’s a new algorithm that’s able to detect disinformation in real time (ref).

They’re not as attractive as reading about when World War III is coming to your neighborhood, but they also represent a part of what’s happening out there.

For more “happy” news, you can read Enlightenment now, by Steven Pinker. Some facts from the book:

  • You’re way less likely to die on the job. Every year.
  • Time spent doing laundry fell from 11.5 hours a week in 1920 to an hour and a half in 2014.
  • You’re 37 times less likely to be killed by a lightning bolt than at the turn of the century.

I don’t have enough context to understand

Here’s a recent headline:

South Korea fires warning shots as North Korean soldiers briefly cross border.

After reading that sentence, I understand what happened. Still, I don’t have enough historical knowledge to know exactly where the conflict between the two countries came from, what the general feeling about North Korea in South Korea is nowadays, a general view of the cultural context in the two countries, and a long list of essential details that give this headline its proper place in History.

Most news doesn’t live for too long

In Ancient Greek, the word ἐφημερῐ́ς (ephemeris), from ἐφήμερος, could be translated as “short-lived,” showing that news has a short life.

I’m not indifferent to bad things happening in the world, but let me show you an example. Here’s a headline from one year ago on the cover page of the New York Times:

Deep in the Atlantic, a ‘Catastrophic Implosion’ and Five Lives Lost.

Five people died trying to see the R.M.S. Titanic using a poorly designed submarine for that depth.

Considering that around 63 million people died in 2023 in the world, do I have those five people present in my thoughts after a year? Do you?

I wish this didn’t happen, but it did.

If a similar accident happens again, do we need to know? Will it improve our lives in any way? Or will it make us suffer a bit for those people and their families for a few days, and then we’ll move on to the next drama that the media wants to use to sell more?

I’m developing a more comprehensive theory about choices in a capitalist world.

Since everything is within our reach in a capitalist society (products, experiences, media, drugs, alcohol, etc.), people will be able to differentiate themselves by being able to control how (and if) they consume these things and have more freedom, or they just live addicted to them.

We could also apply this to news consumption, but knowing we’re fighting an uphill battle here.

Consuming something in moderation that’s designed to catch your attention and keep you reading is hard. So you need a better strategy than saying, “Just five more minutes, and I’ll be back at work.

We must eliminate entirely or at least think carefully about how we read the news.

A different approach to be informed

Instead of opening a news site and reading about what’s happening now, I prefer a more calm approach, reading about things that will still matter tomorrow and using non-clickbait headlines if possible.

For that, there are some good options:

  • A weekly (instead of daily) newspaper like the Economist. More in-depth analysis of what happened last week since they’re not focused on what’s happening now and have great journalists.
  • A more generalist news source like /r/worldnews on Reddit.
  • A more neutral list of news like the current events on Wikipedia. It doesn’t use almost any images, and if you want to read more, you can go to the source.

Using books instead of expiring news

Following the Lindy effect, we could assume that the longer some information or idea has been around, the more likely it is to stay relevant. That inevitably leads us to books.

Instead of constantly checking the news, we can spend more time reading good books that have shaped the world. There are countless lists about any topic you can imagine, so I won’t share any. If you need help figuring out where to start, reading about History is an excellent first choice.