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No breaking news please..

On my way back from a vacation in Gangtok last year, my son kept asking the same question ‘will the plane crash’ ? I tried to allay his fears to best of my abilities – that thousands of plane fly each day, its the safest mode of transportation, planes are strong, pilots are very good – but he was not convinced. ‘I saw a plane crash on TV’
came the reply, when asked as to why was he so scared. Some Russian plane crashed sometime back and our 24/7 news channels covered every bit of its details. Our constant ‘hunger’ and ‘curiosity’ for breaking news means that these 24/7 channels and newspapers have a field day….almost every day.

The front page of Times of India today (December 31, 2017) says things like

A) 2 minor girls sent to jail for cow slaughter ;

B) Students of top colleges, univ in drug bust ; and

C) After fire, 314 demolitions in Mumbai.

Do we really need to know these breaking news ? What value does it add to our lives ? Will we miss a great deal if we don’t know about these ?

In his brilliant book ‘the art of thinking clearly’, the author Rolf Dobelli has a chapter titled ‘why you shouldn’t read the news’. He says that most of the news around us are irrelevant, complete waste of time and distorts our minds. Dobelli claims that his life changed for the better since he stopped watching / reading any kind of news three years ago. He gives an example of Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 where terrorists killed 200 people. His realistic ‘guesstimate’ was that a billion people in India at least wasted one hour each (on an average) to watch the minute by minute updates and listened to the ‘experts’ which in turn wasted around 2000 lives – ten times more than the attack. He further argues that most of us would have seen atleast 10,000 news snippets in last one year but can’t name even one which helped us in taking a better decision, in life, career or profession. It looks exaggerated at first instance but I see the point he makes.

In addition, since most of these news are negative (murder, rape, accidents, fraud, calamity), it’s driving our behaviour in a particular manner. The example of my son about being scared of plane crash is not an isolated instance. I have heard kids talking about earth quakes, murders, riots and so on. Many of them have had nightmares involving one of these. My mom doesn’t want me to use credit cards online as she saw some news about large amount being siphoned away from someone’s bank account fraudulently. She also looks at me suspiciously whenever there is a news of atrocities being committed by a son on his old parents 😊.

Dobelli suggests that we should read long background articles and books instead of news. I have decided to try it out for few days and to avoid news to the extent possible (reading some business news of course is an occupational hazard). If nothing else, I will try my kids not to see those…now that my assurances about plane crashes are failing to make an impact !!

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