Why I don't check news and you shouldn't either

By dkl9, written 2023-170, revised 2023-170 (0 revisions)


Ubiquitous in current times is the extensive reading, watching, and hearing of news. Yet I partake in none of it — none deliberately, at least. As for how I got to that point: it was literally the default option. As for why I so gladly accept that situation: I justify it as follows.

Human motives aren't just what we often think they are, and conversation isn't just about communication. In some cases, it's mostly about showing off knowledge. This especially applies when conversing about current events. (See e.g. Simler and Hanson (2018) for more on this.) Talking about current events makes for a costly signal of knowing things. If the events are current, you couldn't have learned about them long ago, which implies a minimal rate of recent learning.

lsusr uses calculus to characterise how one's total useful knowledge changes over time. If the things you learn go obsolete quickly — like most news — knowledge stays roughly constant, proportional to learning rate. So if you know that what someone's talking about goes obsolete quickly, the amount they know that's relevant indicates how fast they learn and thus how much they invest in knowing those things. If the things you learn stay relevant for a long time, knowledge keeps increasing linearly. I want my useful knowledge to increase, and I don't care about signalling. Hence I ignore the news and study relatively timeless things.

Some other reasons to disregard the news are already well-documented by Cain. Viewing news adds to stress, sith news is selected to be distinctively negative.

Or maybe I'm just lazy and making up better-sounding reasons after the fact. In which case: you can be lazy too!