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15 June, 2024
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News versus noise

'The constant flow of information and hyperbole appears to have convinced a part of society that it’s better not to be informed at all'

Alexis Papachelas

Alexis Papachelas

Are you fed up with the “news”? Aren’t we all? Are you seized every so often by the need to steer clear of television, radio, paper and online news outlets for a good spell? I’m going to assume yes. You are not alone and, judging by what I read in major international newspapers, it is a global phenomenon.

We live in an age where we’re bombarded by information all day long, all the time. News that once took days or even weeks to reach us now hounds us 24/7. Anyone hooked on the news stands no chance. I see it in myself and among close friends who feel compelled to keep checking the headlines in case we might miss something important. It takes a lot of inspiration, good company or a stunning setting to put our mobile phones down and stop worrying that we’re missing out on something. I sometimes think about the people doing my job 30 or 40 years ago, during periods of intense, crucial events. They’d leave the number of the taverna where they were having dinner at the office so they could be informed of any new developments. Were they less informed than we are today? I don’t think so.

The need to “consume” the news when it’s fresh deprives us of the ability to view events from a calm distance. It also makes us vulnerable to hyperbole of all kinds. Look at how the weather is reported, for example. Take it seriously and you’ll think that some kind of tsunami or new ice age is coming to wipe out the human race. By the fourth time you read something similar, you start to see it for the exaggeration it is and next time you’ll either skip it entirely or brush it off as nothing more than “noise.” The constant flow of information and hyperbole appears to have convinced a part of society that it’s better not to be informed at all, except when there’s something really important going on that has a direct impact on their lives.

The truth is that these are tough times for those doing the informing as much as for those who want to be informed. And they are made even tougher by the fact that social media threaten to eradicate balanced discussion and common sense from the public discourse. Neither, of course, sells as well as loud and passionate grandstanding. Anyone who wants to be part of the crowd finds instant gratification; those who want distance and objectivity, are more or less on their own. So what’s the solution? Keeping calm and stay informed when it’s really necessary.

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