Oh, the news. Our daily dose of crime, war, natural disasters, and celebrity scandals. All cut into bite-size pieces for our entertainment.
It is not only that this stuff is so addictive. It is also peer pressure. You allegedly must watch the news. To keep informed. To be a better citizen.
When you stop watching the news, your life will improve almost overnight. You will experience less anxiety, have more focus, and get precious time back.
But as with any addiction, it is difficult to wean yourself off the news.
That’s where this article comes in. We will discuss the 15 reasons to quit the news and practical strategies for doing so.
First, let’s clarify something. When I say, “Stop watching the news,” I mean all news. This includes:
- Watching traditional TV news
- Reading newspapers and news magazines
- Checking the news app on your smartphone
- Checking out CNN.com on your laptop
It doesn’t matter what device you use — the news is the news.
The News Is an Addiction
Do you know the feeling?
You are in line at the supermarket — you check the news.
You are at the restaurant with your friend — you check the news.
You are in the bathroom — you check the news.
You are in bed with your partner — you check the news.
We are news junkies.
If you harbor any doubts that the news and social media are an addiction, leave the house for a few hours, but don’t take your smartphone. Then feel the pang of disappointment every time you reach for your smartphone but remember it’s not there.
Why Are We Addicted?
Why do we crave the news like we crave carbs or alcohol?
Because we are hardwired for gossip.
In prehistoric times, we would dish the dirt around the campfire. “Did you know that he cheated on her?” “She is now pregnant by him.” “He’d better start bringing home an extra mammoth or two.”
In a tribe of up to 100 people, that served a purpose. We would learn about potential sexual partners, allies to align with, and impending dangers.
Gossiping as cultural learning would increase our chances for survival and procreation. That’s why it became part of our genetic framework.
But while our genes have not changed, our environment has. In huge, anonymous societies, gossiping doesn’t serve a practical purpose anymore. Yet the urge to do so can be exploited for profit.
15 Reasons Why You Should Stop Watching the News
Here are 15 good reasons to stop watching the news.
1. The News Thrives on Drama
The most common rationalization of the news — “I need to know what is going on in the world.”
No, you don’t. You just need your daily dose of drama.
If it really was about the information, we would try to store it. But ask anyone what was in the news this time one year ago, and they will give you a blank look. Because they don’t care anymore.
Nothing could be older than the daily news, nothing deader than yesterday’s newspaper.Edward Abbey
What we really crave is drama, to spike up our uneventful lives.
Some people resort to fiction or movies for that. But it doesn’t provide the same kick. We still know it’s an illusion.
But a high school shooting? A terrorist attack? A genocide? Now that gets the juices flowing.
There is a common catchphrase in journalism — “If it bleeds, it leads.” It’s true. The media deals in emotions, not in information.
Couple that with a hefty dose of fear of missing out, and you understand why people need their daily fix like they need their coffee.
2. The News Is Not a Form of Education
Supposedly, watching the news makes you more educated.
The question then becomes, “What qualifies as education?”.
The litmus test I propose is to look at how difficult something is.
Memorizing a textbook or writing an academic paper? Hard to do. Millions of students struggle with it every year.
But watching a political soap opera unfold, or the aftermath of a riot? Zero effort. It’s so effortless, we can even do it after a long day of work.
It’s almost a journalistic ritual, and certainly a tradition, to focus on simple events that are simple to cover.Pierre Bourdieu
When it comes so easily, it’s probably not education.
3. It Does Not Relate to You
Ask yourself: If you had never watched the news in your life, would your life look any different?
Knowing what the president said about China, or what Gwyneth Paltrow thinks about sex, will not change the trajectory of your life.
Even armed conflicts and natural catastrophes won’t unless they happen to take place where you live.
We are completely functional without the news.
4. It Induces Anxiety
According to the media, the world is made up of hate, violence, and suffering.
It’s like someone forced you to watch horror movies all day, every day.
Expose yourself to this doomsday bias regularly, and it will shape how you think and feel.
You will get angry at the world. You will become suspicious. But most of all, you’ll end up afraid.
The result is a fear–driven personality, hiding in the shadows, too cautious to live life.
Fortunately, it’s reversible. When you stop watching the news, you will soon experience less anger, less anxiety, and less sadness. It’s one of the easiest ways to protect your peace.
5. Your Health Will Suffer
Watching the news has direct, measurable effects on your body. You will experience higher cortisol and adrenaline levels, elevated blood pressure, as well as heart racing.
There is also growing evidence that watching the news contributes to mental illnesses like depression and insomnia.
Watching the news is bad news for your health.
6. It’s a Waste of Your Time
Most researchers estimate that Americans spend about 70 minutes a day checking the news. That adds up to over 8 hours a week.
If you invested that amount in your health and fitness, you would be in the best shape of your life. You would look more attractive to the opposite sex, be more productive, and live significantly longer.
Or invest that time in learning a new work-related skill set. Keep it up for one or two years and you will be promoted, earn more, and have future-proofed your career.
Better yet, invest that time in a side hustle to escape the 9 to 5. Soon you will be making money from an online business that might eventually turn into your main gig.
Or pick up an instrument. Become fluent in Chinese. Learn to juggle.
When you stop watching the news, you will be one step closer to actualizing your dreams.
7. You Won’t Miss Anything
Unless you are a hermit on a remote island, it is impossible to miss out on important events.
You will either observe them yourself, or you will overhear other people talking about them. You will also come across newsstands, airport TVs, and public news feeds.
If there is a pandemic or World War III is about to start, you will know.
And those things that don’t reach you through the grapevine?
They don’t matter, at least not to your life. You are better off not wasting your mental RAM on them.
8. It’s Not Helping
Many people argue that by watching the news, you are contributing to the defense of democracy/justice/a better world.
But how are you defending democracy, glued to your chair, mesmerized by the screen in front of you? It’s a state of sedation.
If you were really concerned with societal change, you would get off the screen. You’d be protesting in the street. You’d be helping the less fortunate. You might even take up arms.
It is easy to sit up and take notice. What is difficult is getting up and taking action.Honoré de Balzac
Just watching the injustices of the world is not helping anyone.
It’s being a cynic.
9. The News Is the Fast Food of Information
The news is like empty calories for our minds. It’s fueled by drama and speculation. Much of it is unverified. Opinions and rants represent a huge portion of it.
This is due to production demands. Producing the daily news is a 24/7 job. The media companies have to keep pumping out content, just for the sake of content. Naturally, the quality will be low.
10. It’s About Profit
Journalism works like any other industry — it is about profit.
The stage production of news shows, the layout of newspapers, the online clickbait, and the algorithms are all just designed for one purpose — to keep us hooked.
That is what the media specializes in.
Because if we keep watching, that means the provider gets more ad revenue, more sponsored content, more paid subscriptions, and more data to mine.
Just like with the proverbial used car salesman, you should not expect the truth from somebody who is trying to make a buck off you.
11. It Programs You For Failure
What is constantly on your mind determines what you become. If you spend a lot of time looking at violence and petty drama, don’t expect any breakthroughs. Your mind is too occupied with destruction to ever enter into a mode of production.
But when you stop watching the news, all that bound-up mental focus suddenly becomes available.
Those things that you kept ignoring — your dwindling health, the job you hate, the debts piling up — you can now address them.
12. The News Ignores the Important
For years, news stations didn’t pay much attention to climate change, even though it was clear this was going to turn the world upside down. But at the time, whatever current war or political scandal was taking place got more viewers.
The news doesn’t represent what is truly important. It favors whatever event is creating the most noise.
13. It’s Repetitive
A huge portion of the daily news is just a slight variation of what was already said yesterday. Even in the most dramatic of conflicts, there’s not enough action to fill out all the airtime. That is why journalists keep warming up old stuff.
14. It’s Manipulative
We look for the news for truth, but that is rarely what we get.
Those currently in power will always try to influence the media to stay in power.
Lobbyists, paid by certain industries and interest groups, make it their business to manipulate the media.
The media itself displays strong biases, for either end of the political spectrum. Breitbart or Salon.com, take your pick.
And then there is outright fake news.
Face it — the news is a tool to shape the mind of the herd.
But when you stop watching the news, that changes.
Now you can come up with your own assessments, outside the paradigm. It’s a step towards self-liberation.
15. You Are Only Getting Scraps
The illusion sold to us is that some smart journalist figured it all out.
In reality, we are just glimpsing the tip of the iceberg. All the backroom talks and the secret deals rarely come to light.
We are wasting our time dwelling on fragments of the complete picture.
Wouldn’t it be wiser to put that time to better use?
How To Stop Watching the News
Are you tired of doomscrolling the news for hours on end? Then let’s go on an information diet.
Do a Test-Drive
Decide on a short test-drive period, during which you are going to quit the news. Seven days is a good time frame to start. This will take off the pressure. Anyone can endure something slightly uncomfortable for seven days.
If, after that week, you want to continue the experiment, just agree on another seven days with yourself. Eventually, you will get to the point where the benefits make it desirable to quit the news altogether.
Choose Your Strategy
There are three basic strategies to stop watching the news:
- Go cold turkey
- Gradually wean yourself off
- Employ a hybrid approach
Going cold is self-explanatory — you quit the news completely, from one day to the next. It’s the toughest of the three, but it can be done. The trick is to reserve all your willpower for kicking this one habit. Don’t try to establish any other demanding habits at the same time, like dieting or a workout habit.
To gradually wean yourself off is what I like to do when I fall off the wagon. I agree with myself to not check any news or social media for the first few hours after waking up. This will dramatically improve your productivity in the morning. Once I am comfortable with that, I extend that period into the afternoon, then into the evening, before I stop altogether. This is the better approach if you have other projects going on too.
The hybrid approach for quitting the news is somewhere in the middle in terms of willpower cost. Here, you only check the news once a week. There is a similar concept in dieting, the weekly cheat day. In both instances, it’s easier to be strict during the week when you know that there will be temporary relief at the weekend.
Just like with dieting, it is easier to stick with your information diet if you remove certain triggers from your environment. Here are a few ideas:
- If you have a Smart TV, you can selectively remove all news channels.
- Or get rid of your TV completely. Sell it or donate it. If you are just doing a test drive, put it into storage.
- Deactivate news notifications on your phone and your computer.
- Delete any news apps you might have installed.
- Block your favorite news platforms on your computer, using a browser extension like BlockSite. Do the same for your phone.
- When you leave the house, don’t take your smartphone.
- Or leave your phone with a friend.
- Filter out news feeds in your social media.
- Unfollow people who like to post and comment on negative news.
- Better yet, stop social media altogether.
- Cancel any news-related email subscriptions you might have.
- If you feel really brave, cancel your internet at home.
Cut Out Social Media
When you want to stop watching the news, I recommend quitting social media as well.
First, sooner or later, you will get exposed to the news through social media.
Second, social media has many of the same negative effects (anxiety-inducing, manipulative, etc.)
Third, in some ways, social media is even worse than the news.
Where the news — even the empty-calorie daily news — receives at least some level of curation, with social media, it’s anything goes. Every halfwit is free to post their opinions, conspiracy theories, and hate speech.
To be clear, that is as it should be. Free speech is unnegotiable. But it doesn’t mean that we have to listen to it.
Get Real About “Research”
You will sometimes google answers to certain questions you have. Be careful that this doesn’t become a substitute for watching the news.
Researching the workout routine of Jason Statham or engrossing yourself in Nazi war crimes is not research (unless you are about to interview Jason Statham or write a history book).
To avoid that trap, always ask yourself, “Is this research solving a real problem of mine?” If the answer is “No,” put down the phone or close the window on your computer.
On a side note, very little serious research has ever been done on a smartphone. If that is what you are using, it’s probably not research to start with.
There is nothing wrong with being curious about the world we live in. But instead of consuming fast-food news, opt for something nutritious. Read books.
An author usually has more time to edit his work. He will go through it again and again, polishing it until it’s truly ready. This results in a density that you won’t get from the news or social media.
Also, books are less concerned with current events. It’s the idea behind a good book that sells, not its fleeting urgency.
To be completely cured of newspapers, spend a year reading the previous week’s newspapers.Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Find Other Distractions
The primary function of the news is to provide distraction.
There is nothing wrong with distraction per se. Sometimes we just need to kick back for a few minutes.
But when you stop watching the news, you need to find healthy alternatives. Here are a few ideas:
- Read some lighthearted fiction. I love fantasy for that.
- Take a quick shower.
- Do some light stretching/mobility work.
- Take a quick 10-minute walk around the block (leave the phone at home).
- Turn on some music and dance / sing along / practice your air guitar skills.
- Masturbate (without watching porn).
- Call a friend.
All of these will recharge you, but without increasing negativity in your life.
Walk Away from Gossip
When people around you start “discussing the news,” i.e., gossiping and speculating, walk away. Don’t try to explain why you would rather not discuss the news — just come up with an excuse to leave. Better yet, have a canned excuse ready for just such occasions, like “I got a message from a friend and I need to call back.”
It is not worth getting into an argument with believers of any kind. You will never convince them to think outside the paradigm. Instead, learn how to not let things bother you.
Don’t Sweat Falling off the Wagon
Just like with any other addiction that you want to quit, you might keep falling off the wagon. I do it all the time. When it happens, don’t fret about it. Dust yourself off and try again.
You have to look at this from a macro perspective. If you keep at it, over time, these digressions will be spaced further and further apart. You will start to develop a taste for living a news-free life.
Reconditioning your brain is a tricky thing to do, and failures are part of the process. If you accept that, you are more likely to hang in there.
Would you like more tips on living a distraction-free life? Then check out my article on monk mode.
The Media Is Not the Enemy
It’s easy to play the blame game. “All this is the sensationalist media’s fault, trying to manipulate us.”
But the truth is, we created the media, all of us. It is just filling a demand that was already there. If we collectively stopped watching the news tomorrow, all media outlets would go out of business.
It also has to be said that the news fulfills an important function in a democratic society. They keep the people in power in check. And as faulty as that control mechanism oftentimes is, it is at least something.
So even though I reject the news on an individual level, I have to admit, that for society as a whole, having the news helps more than it hurts.
But that doesn’t mean that you should watch it.