In 2017, I’m going to stop watching the news

Mattias Geniar, Saturday, December 31, 2016 - last modified: Monday, January 2, 2017

I've stopped watching the news a few months ago and it's definitely a trend I'm planning to continue in 2017.

We live in a world of information. Open Facebook and you see dozens of articles about topics your friends are interested in. Open Twitter and you'll see yet another death of a celebrity. Open a news app and you'll read about plain crashes, terrorist threats, immigration, warzones and Syria.

Ask yourself a simple question though: what can you do about that?

Absolutely nothing.

Stop reading the news

A few months ago I removed all news apps from my phone, which was my primary source of mainstream news. Those are the kind of apps that want you to read every article by making headlines look as scary or unbelievable as possible.

But you really don't need an app to tell you that;

  • There are still refugees on the run from Syria and Libya
  • There are going to be terrorist attacks all over the world, taking hundreds of lives
  • Trump is going to be president in 2017
  • Some celebrity is going through some kind of scandal

You can fairly accurately predict what the news of next week is going to be. Or better yet: you can predict what news outlets are going to cover next week.

Be an ostridge ostrich

Bury your head in the sand.

Having nothing but bad news thrown at you every single day isn't going to make you happier if you can't do anything about it.

You know what makes you happier in life? Making things better, make someone else happy, do the things you love and care about.

I'd much rather read about local initiatives helping people, where my actions or donations can actually make a difference.

Sure, I can donate 50$ of tax-deductible money to the Red Cross to help them, but what's my 50$ going to do? It's not going to make a meaningful difference (1) and won't make me feel any better.

News about the things you care about

I love technology, innovation, gadgets, open source, Linux, ... and all things nerdy. Heck, I even devoted a weekly newsletter to it.

So to satisfy my hunger for information I'll still read Hacker News, the /r/linux and /r/programming subreddits and a handful of other websites.

But I choose what kind of news I want to see. And mainstream media isn't going to be on that list.

(1) I know what you're thinking: what if everyone stops donating? I'm not saying to stop donating, just focus on charities or help where your efforts make a meaningful difference. Not 0.000001% of the donations.

Hi! My name is Mattias Geniar. I'm a Support Manager at Nucleus Hosting in Belgium, a general web geek & public speaker. Currently working on DNS Spy & Oh Dear!. Follow me on Twitter as @mattiasgeniar.

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Kashif Saturday, December 31, 2016 at 18:24 - Reply

Watching the news, reading about the news, sifting through Facebook and Twitter for the news – news about which we can’t do anything, yet we still want to get that news. We are a generation of news junkies, overloaded with the news.

I congratulate you to take the brave decision. Hope you stay sane and on the right path.

Happy New Year 2017!

Jack Saturday, December 31, 2016 at 18:32 - Reply

Ostrich – not Ostridge

Albert Saturday, December 31, 2016 at 18:34 - Reply

There’s a big difference between being mindful in what sort of media you consume and when, and burying your head in the sand completely. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I think that there’s a lot to be said about being informed about the world you live in, and that doesn’t have to be on a day-to-day basis (and perhaps shouldn’t). One could consider reading a weekly newspaper such as the Economist. This way you can opt out on the daily torrent of low-quality news, and instead develop a higher-depth understanding of what’s happening.

Cal Newport has done some thinking on what he calls “Digital Minimalism”. Here’s a relevant blog post you might find interesting:

Ross Hamilton Saturday, December 31, 2016 at 19:48 - Reply

A few things:
If you don’t look at mainstream news you won’t be aware of the fact that there are refugees in Syria and Libya. Also many other things. You’ll be ignorant of the world around you.
It sounds like you’re saying I’m interested in technology, software etc. I’m not much interested in other human beings.

“You can fairly accurately predict what the news of next week is going to be. Or better yet: you can predict what news outlets are going to cover next week.”
I don’t believe you, this sounds like absolute nonsense. Sure, you can reasonably expect that there will be coverage of political events which are likely to include a particular campaign or issue but you can’t accurately predict what the news next week will be, not without omniscience.

Jan Van Ryswyck Saturday, December 31, 2016 at 22:08 - Reply

Congrats and welcome to the new world of mindfulness. I’ve quit the news/papers/media a few years ago and I’ve never been happier. You’ll notice that completely shutting down from the rest of humanity isn’t possible neither the goal. The big, important events will reach you. And then you can decide whether you want to read up on it or not (by searching for quality articles written by real journalists). Did you already decide what to do with your extra free time? There are some really good books out there :-)

Frank Saturday, December 31, 2016 at 23:03 - Reply

LOL @ “Ostridge”

Pieter Sunday, January 1, 2017 at 13:45 - Reply

Only relying on ‘news’ fron like-minded people is part of the reason we end up with a more selfish society. It’s partly how Brexit happened and how Trump got elected. If you no longer see what’s living outside your bubble, you cannot realize what moves the other part of the society that is not on your radar. If you cannot see, you cannot try to understand, nor can you elect people that are capable of bridging those gaps (as you choose not to act for that other part of the society)… Like mentioned in other comments: sure we don’t need the daily news, it’s too much oriented towards sensationalism because that’s what brings in the money. But heck, we have a responsibility to stay aware of the rest of the world. I wish for 2017 that enough sources can keep up the work to inform us in a balanced way even though that is not the easiest way to make a living…

Hammy Havoc Sunday, January 1, 2017 at 13:54 - Reply

I’ve not seen the news on TV since 2010, it’s a great way to be. Heck, I’ve not seen broadcast TV since 2011 out of choice. I’m far happier, more free, more productive, and more skeptical about “news” I hear of. I highly recommend it!

svennd Monday, January 2, 2017 at 16:30 - Reply

add to /etc/hosts : hln

It was one of my better moves in 2016.

Philip Van Hoof Monday, January 2, 2017 at 21:44 - Reply

Did the same thing in 2015, started reading news again in 2016 but with a lot less of caring about it. Today I hear a lot of people say that 2016 was so terrible, this and that. While 2014 was massively worse for me. So basically, since I didn’t care about 2016’s events it did me well not to read news in 2015. I guess.

One sabbatical year can already do wonders.

Mattias Geniar Monday, January 2, 2017 at 22:31 - Reply

Looks like even Google is confused about ostridge vs. ostrich, but I fixed the post :-)

kxcydz Friday, January 27, 2017 at 22:54 - Reply

“If you don’t look at mainstream news you won’t be aware of the fact that there are refugees in Syria and Libya.” Bravo, you deserve a cookie for being informed about things you obviously cannot control, and I bet you’re stressed out about it. You are the definition of a brainwashed news junkie who doesn’t do research outside of the misinformation channels.

Elizabeth Friday, February 10, 2017 at 17:04 - Reply

Mattias, I love your idea! Please consider following-up somewhere down the road. I did something similar when I was a government contractor in Iraq. For the first few months, I kept up with the news, but from Feb 2009 until Dec 2011, I didn’t watch any television at all. I read a lot of books instead. I was very aware at how calm I felt without the daily onslaught of news, information, and advertising.

Stephen Tuesday, August 29, 2017 at 15:04 - Reply

I strongly agree with the gist of Mattias’s article. After watching it since infancy, I (and my wife) stopped watching the news on television in 2013. Indeed, we also stopped watching ANY television. (We still watch DVDs and VHS tapes of older movies and TV drama series; we have a collection of thousands of them here on the Virginia farm that is home.) My wife never read much news online, but I’ve been a daily reader of the Washington Post and the New York Times websites. Today, I made the grand decision to stop following the news online as well. I’ve become increasingly disgusted and fed up with the deteriorating quality of journalism, with its fearmongering and clickbait headlines and listicles and all the rest. The purchase of the Washington Post by Amazon was a harbinger of my decision to give up on “newspapers.” I read a fair amount and am currently working my way through the marvelous novels of Charles Dickens. Unlike Mattias, I am not a fan of the electronic revolution. I think it underlies many of the adverse changes we are witnessing (also some good changes, too). Anyway, I join with Mattias in urging you to stop wasting time sucking up the media’s witches’ brew of fear and scandal, and instead to get involved in your local community. We are vendors at our local farmer’s market, and find that helping to feed the public is highly fulfilling work.

WhoWhatWhereWhenWhy Friday, September 22, 2017 at 22:50 - Reply

“Open a news app and you’ll read about plain crashes, terrorist threats, immigration, warzones and Syria.” Can you spot the spelling error in the first paragraph? I can’t believe no one else commented on it! Plain should be spelled plane, aka airplane.

How can someone know what is going on in the world or their local community if they “ignore” the news? Like a previous comment stated a person would have to be omniscient to gain knowledge without receiving it from an external source.

Even with the mistakes and contradictions this is still a nice brief article to start a conversation about how people are spending their time and where they get their information.

Watching the MSM (mainstream media) regularly can be a waste of time for most people. Finding and knowing about trustworthy news sources is important so if you need information about something you already have sources to reference. That could mean simply bookmarking some news sites on your web browser so you can quickly reference them when needed at a random time. Also many great indepenent news sources on YouTube.

The important thing is to research and question, think for yourself.

    wingweaver84 Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 14:18 - Reply

    @WhoWhatWhereWhenWhy Just because a person doesn’t watch or read the news doesn’t mean that they’re completely isolated from what goes on. Back before the Internet and social media people actually talked FACE TO FACE and not behind a screen. (People still do this today!)They read newspapers that were once thick as phonebooks. They picked up a landline,dialed a number and talked. Not to mention radio that wasn’t digital!

    There are as many ways to be informed now as there are today without a digital presence, And yes,it’s important to consider just how much of it truly impacts your own life.

    I’ll give you an example. I’m a 33 year old Canadian woman who has spent almost the last year glued to CNN watching all the politics. And the question I have to keep asking myself is:why do I watch it?What relevance does it have to me watching from the north?(And really,what relevance do wildfires on the other side of the country have on my personal life?)The answer is this. Yes,I feel concern and sympathy for those people affected. Any rational person would. But it doesn’t affect me personally. Unless I had family members in those situations,there is no impact on my day to day life.

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