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Letter: Avoid television news for your sanity’s sake

Published on February 1, 2018 12:01AM

Last changed on February 1, 2018 9:02PM

An article by The Guardian got me thinking. The revelation of this article was that news is just not good for you. “News to the mind is like sugar to the body,” the article claims. The article asks readers to name one news article, of thousands read in the last 12 months, that has actually caused readers to make better decisions about any serious matter in their lives. “Consumption of news is irrelevant to you,” it claims.

News items that worry or scare us actually are toxic to our bodies, causing release of cortisol that deregulates the immune system and inhibits release of growth hormones. The result is the body is in a constant state of chronic stress.

News is also extremely misleading, and the article uses a televised horrific plane crash as a good example. That crash often changes a viewer’s attitude about flying even though commercial flying is actually one of the safest ways to travel. There are so many thousands of disjointed little “new factoids” flooding your brain that trying to comprehend them really reduces your overall understanding of the really important “big picture.”

News also feeds what the article calls “confirmation bias.” As Warren Buffet states, “What the human being is best at is interpreting all new information so their prior conclusions remain intact.” Our brains love stories that make sense to us even if they are not true (fake news).

News is now like a drug. The more little snippets of an unfolding story we read, the more we have to know about it. Scientists who study the brain, however, have discovered the more news we consume, the more we make use of brain circuits that increase “skimming and multitasking.” Unfortunately, we then tend to ignore neural circuits used for deep thinking and serious reading, such as taking time to read a good book. The physical structure of our brains has actually changed due to this constant barrage of meaningless news stories. News disrupts concentration and weakens comprehension. News beats us down until we fall victim to “learned helplessness,” where we finally just accept the world that is “pessimistic, desensitized, sarcastic, and fatalistic.”

The answer? According to the author, the only remedy is to give up watching TV news entirely. He guarantees this will make you happier, improve your memory, cause less stress, and improve your overall health.

David Burns



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