Reading the news is a waste of time

Posted on Jul 4, 2021

On Thursday I configured NextDNS to block (for my personal devices only) Google News has been my Internet obsession since it debuted in 2002. It is not a healthy one. Whenever my mind gets lost for a second, I find myself opening a browser tab and checking Google News to see…what’s new, I guess. Sometimes I close Google News out of disgust or boredom and then, almost immediately, open it up again.

Why do I do this? What am I searching for? What is going on in my mind?

Reading the news seems like a worthwhile activity—something a thoughtful, intelligent person would do—but I am pretty sure that most of the time it isn’t. I think that news sites and cable networks exploit the part of our brains that are always scanning for threats and opportunities, as part of our survival instincts. In Paleolithic times, knowing if the tribe across the river is friendly or hostile, knowing where the good game is and where the predators are, and knowing what foods might kill you were all important to survival. All of that information is relevant and timely.

But that’s not what I get from Google News. I rarely learn about anything nearby that could possibly affect me. I usually learn about national affairs, faraway disasters, or (more recently) some else’s social media-published outrage about these things. It’s hard to say that provides me much benefit at all. So, for the time being, I’m turning it off. The news will still be there when I need it, but not packaged in such a way that hooks me and makes me feel virtuous for being hooked on it.