Don’t read any more news, you’ll get depressed!

Picture of Pablo Gasull

Spaniards are fleeing the news; They are tired; Interest in the news has fallen from 85% to 55% in just seven years according to Reuters Institute. This fact explains this one: 72% of communication professionals are concerned about the increase of people avoiding news; The reality that was intuited is confirmed: we are turning our backs on the media; What is happening?

Why Spaniards flee from the news

Among the reasons, 36% are disinterested because news have a negative impact on their state of mind. Understandable, we have been on a very bad run since 2020; Pandemics, volcanic eruptions, deterioration and assault on institutions, wars, recessions, earthquakes and a long list of undesirable events have created the perfect cocktail for citizens to flee the present day and stick their heads in the ground like ostriches;

We want news that makes our day

Readers demand, in return, a kinder and more inspiring, more optimistic journalism. When I started my career in journalism, one of the questions I used to ask myself was why negative news has a bigger audience and generates more money than positive news; This concern, which is still on my mind, has motivated some journalists to create optimistic media hoping to turn the tide. However, with the exception of a few cases such as Correo sí deseado -a bulletin in El País, have not been as successful as expected.

How hard is it to create a medium that makes our day? Yes; This difficulty is due in part to the premise that current affairs is inherently adverse and problematic; Journalism was born with the vocation to denounce evil, to watch over power, to unveil bad intentions and to show the crude and unpleasant reality; It is governed by a guiding principle: evil must be shown so that citizens are aware of and can fight against the hardships that beset their fellow man;

However, this understanding of the profession often forgets that the world is also a kind place that day after day offers inspiring and heroic stories that make the world beautiful; stories that are also part of reality and deserve to be told; If life is reduced to a string of misfortunes, if journalists focus their gaze only on the catastrophes that bludgeon us in our daily lives, we will only know part of the story; Perhaps the solution lies not in a dichotomy between negative and positive media, but in finding a balance that does justice to reality as it is, and that focuses on stories that inspire and offer the world some hope;

We have become infoxicated;

The current situation is also due to the overabundance of information. First television and then the Internet transformed the world; Before the digital revolution, the presses set the times, there were morning and evening newspapers, the news was out of date because there was no live coverage; Once this door was opened, we were blessed with endless live news, but punished with saturation; It is clear that we have become infoxicated; A clear example: during the pandemic, more than 14,000 media reports on the Covid-19 crisis were published daily; No human brain can process that;

This overabundance is compounded by the global reach of the news; We no longer only hear about tragedies in our neighbourhood, city or country; Now we have news of a bus accident in Kathmandu, a landslide in Peru or the loss of biodiversity in the Tasman Sea; Tragedies are multiplying in a world that seems to be getting smaller; On the other hand, good news also proliferates, but, without seeing a clear reason, it does not generate the same impact on our psyche;

Social networks exaggerate the news

Another reason for this lack of interest is the amplification produced by social networks, which not only bombard us with dozens of headlines, but also dramatise and hyperbolise events; The rise of populism, the deterioration of institutions and the politicisation of the media are partly due to the exaggeration of reality in a social ecosystem that shies away from calm, reflection and depth;

Far from seeking rigour, the media have made the most of this situation, feeding back polarisation. Hence, for example, there is an overabundance of political reporting of declarations and a dearth of research on the feasibility of concrete policies; The accusation or the personal attack sells more than the reflection on the policies to be implemented; that is to say, politicians sell more than political proposals; Fascinating; It is logical that people don’t want to see news;

On the other hand, some studies point out that, since the birth of digital networks and tools, our reading comprehension has declined dramatically. Let’s not be naïve, we no longer read the news; we skim headlines while sliding our finger across the screen at high speed in search of new stimuli. Do we read the news in its entirety, do we cross-check information in search of other approaches, do we educate ourselves on complex issues that require time and effort, do we know how to shut up when we don’t know an issue, do we know how to shut up when we don’t? Generally no, and part of the blame lies with the readers themselves who have failed to resist the sensationalism and tyranny of the clickbait.

Linked to this last question, we have been sold the idea that it is convenient to be informed about everything: the elections in Brazil, the war situation in Ukraine, the famine in Somalia, the earthquake in Turkey… We need to know what is happening all over the world at all times; This dispersion is saturating and exhausting, which is why being hooked on current affairs generates a rebound effect; In this sense, it is better to know less and assimilate the information at leisure, rather than trying to absorb it in its entirety and risk choking on it; This eagerness to know everything – which is nothing more than the vocation of the talk show host who talks about anything and everything – often generates a false sense of control; Let’s not be foolish, reading the media doesn’t make you an expert on anything;

The world is going to hell!

Finally, there is a sociological reason that has little to do with journalism or current affairs, but rather with the readers themselves, especially the younger ones.New generations are characterised by hopelessness, they have the feeling that at any moment the world will collapse; Despite the social and technological advances we have made, we live in an age that is blackening the future and is convinced that everything will get worse; With this pessimism in place, it is logical that many have decided to shy away from current affairs; Why get informed if I’m going to corroborate my theory that the world is shit?

Life has never been easy, and never will be; Current affairs will always be there to remind us of this, but we must not give in to despair; It is good to know the bad things that happen in order to change them; it is good to know the world in order to move in it; Running away from current affairs will only make us more ignorant and evasive of others; So, if you’ve made it this far, I want to give you four tips to help you keep reading the news without running away:

  • Reduce the number of news or articles you read per day; Go for quality and read at least one story with a happy ending; There are many good ones;
  • It’s OK if you haven’t heard the latest gossip; It is good to recognise that we do not achieve everything and that our life is full of limitations; Focus on topics of interest to you and don’t try to hog all the news; less is more;
  • Don’t spend so much time on social media; They are pure fiction; Get out there and live;
  • Finally, always have hope. Evil always likes to attract more attention and therefore gives us the feeling that the world is falling apart, but let us not fall into its deception; The good, discreet and silent, is much more powerful; It is worth believing in;

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