[By Nic Lindh on Friday, 11 February 2011]
We’re in the 25-hour news cycle—an endless bombardment that doesn’t stop and seems to speed up all the time.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t need it.
You can be first on the scene and file a breathless report filled with what will turn out to be inaccuracies all you want. I’m not listening. This has saved me countless hours and a lot of needless stress over the years.
There’s been plenty of handwringing over the years about the downsides of “instant on” news—inaccuracies, ethical oversteps, shallowness, etc.
Nevertheless, it continues, and it’s easy understand why the media are chasing all over themselves trying to be first. The reason is you. You tune in. The media will stop it the second it doesn’t get ratings.
All the handwringing about the breathlessness of the news cycle is a lot like whining about all the crack dealers in your neighborhood while you’re out there every night buying crack. Supply and demand. Simple, right?
So why do you tune in? What are you getting out of it?
Most likely it’s that old devil in modern life: hundreds of thousands of years of survival instincts that are counter-productive in our current world.
Because of course it was a great survival skill to be interested in what was going on in your tribe. If you heard a scream, you must investigate. If there was smoke on the wind, you should check that out immediately. Most likely, whatever stirred your interest had a direct impact on you.
That’s the wiring that kicks in when the news crescendos. But it’s a false alarm now. It’s keeping you from paying attention to the things that are important instead of guiding you to the things that are important.
You can and should be horrified at events like the Giffords shooting and help the victims however you can. But it’s not relevant to your daily existence. You don’t need to know about it as it happens. A lot of things you don’t need to know about at all, e.g. the Balloon Boy non-event. Remember how upset you were that it turned out to be a hoax? I wasn’t. I didn’t waste any of my precious minutes on Earth on it.
It can wait 24 hours. Then you can get a clearer story without the guesswork and adrenaline-infused drama.
Unless of course what you’re really doing is distracting yourself from the misery of your own existence. In that case, go right ahead.