There was an article flying around twitter recently about why reading the news is bad for you. I, umm, didn’t read it. But then I don’t read a lot of things. I strongly agree that purposefully avoiding the news (or at least certain types of it) can make you happier. Reading about something that doesn’t directly affect you and which you can’t directly affect will make you angry to no good purpose. And why waste your life being angry about other people’s opinions? There’s plenty of stuff out there that’s worth being angry about.
Filter bubbles are supposed to be a bad thing, but only if you get the filter wrong. I agree that’s it’s not conducive to a healthy mind to filter out dissenting voices and viewpoints – but there are certain things which I feel a better person for filtering out.
So I don’t read:
1) Celebrity news. My knowledge of celebrity culture has gone down since I started getting my news from the internet. Most of my celeb knowledge comes through the weird and wonderful filter of twitter (who’s Harry Styles? Someone people like to tell about their dead pets)
Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? The internet is full of celebrity news and gossip. Without it, there would be nothing left but cats, bacon, and this gif. But you can choose not to read it. When I was consuming my news in print, I would sometimes read celeb stories. Why not? It’s there on the page, and it takes 5 seconds to skim. But now if I want to do a five-second skim to see who [x] is dating, I have to click on the article to do so. And the stats counters don’t care if I don’t really want to read it. they don’t care if I was reading it ironically. they don’t care if I was only reading it so I could go ‘oh em gee guys, I can’t believe they’re publishing this crap.’
And I don’t want them to publish that crap. Not on serious news sites. It’s not news, and I’m not going to validate your claim that it is by giving you that click.
2) True crime – reports of murder trials/investigations, “terrorist plots”, manhunts. All that sensationalist stuff. This I avoid for a couple of reasons: one, I don’t want to encourage sensationalist reporting. And two, I don’t need to know the details of a tragedy to mourn for it. I don’t need to know what the weapon or the motivation was, and I certainly don’t need to know how the victim’s mother looked in court, you ghoulish bastards.
Leave people alone to mourn as they need to, and part of all of us will mourn with them, whether it’s headline news or not.
3)The Daily Mail. Whatever they try. Nuff said. (Want a more eloquent explanation of why you shouldn’t? Read this)
4) Linkbait articles. You know, the ones with the headlines that seem too good to be true. And they’re not just done by content farms, desperate for clicks. Otherwise reputable publications are guilty of it, too (I’m looking at you, Nature). These are one of the hardest to avoid, because they’re often difficult to identify, so I try to use the lovely and knowledgeable people on my twitter stream to help curate – if lots if them are reading & retweeting, it’s probably worth my time (or it’s about cats. or gin). To add to the power of a timeline full of information professionals comes the fab @HuffPoSpoilers , who selflessly read the Huffington post linkbait articles and post the main details, along with the baiting headline.
So, four things that my internet existence (and life in general) is better off without reading. But, contrary to all received wisdom, I do read…
The comments. I know you’re not supposed to, but you find so much of humanity in them, in all its best and worst. Take youtube, for instance, supposed to be the pit of all that is worst in internet comments. If I didn’t read the comments, I’d never have found the video where someone mentioned that this song was played at his dad’s funeral, and the other comments were sincere sympathy and offers of support. If I didn’t read the comments, I’d never have had to confront the intellectual snobbery that made me surprised that the Daily Mirror comments section attracts better written and less knee-jerk comments than the Guardian.
Yes, some comments are stupid. Yes, some comments are purposefully trolling. Yes, some comments make me swear, shake angry fists at the screen, and despair of humanity. But there’s beauty and wit and intelligence and joy in there, too. And they’re the voice of the people (or at least a vocal subset thereof), and that’s something I don’t want to filter out.