6 Ways to consume news responsibly

Have you ever felt News sucking the life out of you and yet you remain glued to your screens? Have you been dissatisfied with the news that you get from the TV and the internet? You crave for better quality news but you just can’t seem to find any? or you haven’t begun following news and wish to do so? This is a post that will help you get into a healthy relationship with watching news.

With the world surviving a pandemic and each week bringing news that just keeps shocking us so much that even memes remind us about the troubles 2020 has put us in. It is really important for us to know how to find, read and follow news and yet live a healthy, happy and most important of all, a peaceful life. These are times where we must protect ourselves from unnecessary negativity, fake news, panic and misleading news. Here are a few ways you can consume news for the best results.

Schedule Your News

Scheduling a time to check your news each day or week improves how you consume news. Depending on your schedule make a slot during the day to update yourself with news instead of checking each time you touch your phone or your browser. Think about it, each time you check the news, you continue to ponder about it for a while. And you do that many times a day! Each time you do, your mood post the news would affect your work which might not be optimum for whatever you were to do.

Having a specific time to consume news helps you focus on your work the entire day. You could mute notification on your laptops and phones from your news apps and aggregators when you need to focus on your work and keep distractions to a minimum.

And of course, all news can’t be put off to a certain time or you may need to follow it. Then do just that specific news. But try keeping the flow of the other kinds of news limited or check the rest of the news at the time scheduled by you. This step sounds simple but is not quite easy to do. But, is rewarding for your productivity and peace. Sometimes you could ask people to let you know when something comes up. That way you can push the responsibility and yet stay focused on your personal priorities.

Relevance

This is perhaps one of the most important points that one must keep in mind. Not all news is relevant to you. And you might be one of those who like to stay updated on many things. The point is you knowing what really means to you and knowing what kinds of news that impacts you in the long and short term directly will help you keep a track of what news you must follow.

For example, In India, the death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR) is perhaps one of the things that are aired almost all the time on all sorts of media. Personally, it doesn’t affect me directly in any way and I do not follow that news. But, I did follow updates on the Students Vs University Grants Commission case in the Supreme Court (Sadly, the verdict is out I have to go to the examination centre and take my exams. 😢) as news is relevant to me. For some, it may be irrelevant like those who aren’t parents and work. But, it is not fair to be ignorant about things that do not directly impact you. I will talk about how to keep up with things that are not a priority in a while.

The point is for you to know and prioritise your need of news and consume only what is meaningful to you.

Also, once you have scheduled a time to consume news, you naturally can’t fit everything in that slot!

Two Minute Task #1.

Pick up a pen or paper and note down what news would you prioritise if you had 30 minutes in a day to check the news. Now let’s go further, identify the kinds of news you would want to check if you had 15 minutes a day. And now if you had just 5 minutes, what would you focus on?

or

Ask yourself when you see some news. “Would this be relevant to me three months later?”

Check if what you see is even News!

This is one of the most immersive, juicy and most misleading thing you could find out there. Most of us get confused between an Opinion and a Fact. It is super easy to misinterpret an opinion from a fact and change our belief system and most of the media hides this fact many times. And many times we even fail to recognise if something is an opinion or an article!

Each time you read an article, be sure to check if it is an opinion or not. This article you are reading right now is an Opinionated article. A significant indicator if an article is an opinion or a fact is to have a two-minute check.

At the most basic level, a fact is something that can’t be changed or an event that occured and can be verified. An opinion is based on how someone perceives the same and is rooted in belief.

Two Minute Task #2

After you read an article or watch something. Close your eyes and think. Do you agree with it? Or do you disagree? Does your state of agreement or disagreement change anything about the piece of news? If your status of agreement changes your perspective, then it most likely is an Opinion. If it doesn’t it is a fact.

Here is an example, I’ll use one of the most famous sayings.
Fact: There is 50ml of water in a 100ml glass.
Opinion: The glass is half full or the glass is half empty.

How to identify facts and opinions? When facts are stated, phrases like XYZ confirm, discovered, demonstrated, reported etc are used. People use phrases and words like XYZ claims, believes, views, argues etc when an opinion is written. To read more on the differences and how to recognise them check this Article.

Be Wary of Biased News

Not all news is fair. Many times people give their own spin and direct the narratives that suit their goals. I’m not here to diss the media or something, but it is a fact. And we need to protect ourselves. For that we must know the three most common mistakes we do when we consume biased media.

The first is most evident in political news. Some news outlets write about the virtues of one party and write everything wrong about the opposiiton. While there are others who do exactly the opposite. And none of them give the whole picture.

The best way to fall out of this is to actively watch and consume news from both sides. In most cases, no single news outlet is right, nor are they wrong. You will have to discern and find the right in both outlets and keep in mind what is right.

At least in India, the media houses that are biased towards the ruling party BJP, find everything BJP has done is right and just are blind to the mistakes done by the party. And those that tend towards the opposition, are completely oblivious to anything good the ruling government has done and finds opportunities to do nothing but slam them.

I seriously hope you took a moment to let what I said in the last paragraph sink in. This is an example of an opinion. It is completely possible you disagree. It was my belief and my perspective. And if you couldn’t find the difference right away, it’s fine, just keep it in mind that it is easy to be swayed by opinions.

The second common mistake is that people crave confirmation bias. People watch news that confirm their beliefs. If you are a Republican or a Democrat, a BJP follower or a follower of the INC, there is a high chance to keep following news that fits the narrative you side with. Remember, the half-empty glass can also be half full but the fact is that there is just 50ml of water. Try to break out of this and check news sites that publish both sides of the story.

Two minute Task #3

When you watch the news, think of 5 things. Which side of the narrative does your belief lie in? Now think about what are the virtues of your side of belief. Then think about the negatives of the opposite belief. This is the easy part. Here is the challenge. Now think about the negatives of your side of the argument and what your opposition bashes you on. Next, try to see sense in the virtues of your opposition and try to make sense of it. These two are the most crucial and the hardest parts of this exercise. And now, come to a conclusion about the news you consume.

The third common issue we face is that we fall for the Strawman fallacy which basically means inferring something instead of what is claimed. For eg, someone who has both male and female children says “My boys are good kids” and someone who succumbs to this fallacy would question them if they believe their girls are bad. This is very common in the news we consume, especially in debates. We must have a keen eye to understand the difference between the absence of a fact and the fallacy.

Also, it would be mighty unfair of us to ask for unbiased news as it is borderline impossible to do so. What we can control is how we view news of such sorts where there is a biased coverage. You can search for media houses that try to cover both sides of the story. If not, watch news from both sides, those that challenge and align with your views! Bottomline – Do Not rely on just one source for news.

Here is a cartoon that talks about biased news! Source: Garrick Tremain

Hold up a little

I did mention about staying updated even in things that are not entirely relevant to you. Think for a moment if following some kinds of news like, say SSR’s death (in my case is not a priority. It may be a priority to you! This is just an example). There always is something new in the case almost every day. Every few days the narratives keep changing. Someone you thought was right yesterday may be shown in a negative light tomorrow! And there is a lot of information to process everyday.

Here is what I do, I wait it out until the case settles. It is observed that in the beginning, the emotional response is super high which might not be the best time to consume news as it is natural we as consumers may turn biased, opinions fly all around and there may be panic. It is natural, but not fine. It is our responsibility to keep ourselves updated with the right news. Once the emotional uproar as died down, the case progresses facts come to light and it is easier to tell the difference between an opinion and fact.

If possible, read two books on the topic if ever written. One book each from both sides of the picture. Take Kashmir for instance. Everyone has a million opinions. Try to read books from all parties involved and follow the Two-minute Task #3.

Hold out for a week and then read all about the news. You would find the quality of news has improved and also eliminates a lot of fake news. If you have successfully done the Two-minute Task #1, do check on on the news you did not prioritise enough to check on daily matters every three months, or yearly or at a pace that suits you. It is advisable to read a complete article on the topics instead of posts on social media, infographics without sources or memes. To know more on how to spot issues with infographics and the data shown to you, read the article I’ve written here.

Check this link on how to spot BS in infographics.

If you are from India, do check out the Manorama Year Book!

Sharing News

Don’t become that aunt/uncle who sends forwards like crazy from Whatsapp University, or people sharing news mixed with opinions or even memes! Oh yes, many people keep themselves updated through memes. Here is one such article written about memes as a source and the problem of passive news consumption. Whenever you come across an infographic or a meme or posts on twitter/facebook and instagram always check for the source and if linked, do click on it and read it. Don’t simply scroll down to the comments and make opinions based on others opinions. You may find links in the comments that challenge your views. Check those to see if they make sense.

See! How simple it is to convey your opinion through memes! I did it twice already! Source: dopl3r.com

Always share news if you have read through the entire article or watched the entire video and have found them backed by facts. This would allow for a healthier ecosystem and weed out fake news.

Here is an article on how children are susceptible to fake news.

In Conclusion

News is something you must know. But you must think and conclude at the end of the day. Do not believe the opinions and biased you consume. Before you share something. As does it make sensewith logic. And share it. Do not share your opinions without clearly using words like, “In my opinion” explicitly.

It is also super crucial to be an active consumer of news instead of being a passive consumer. After you read/watch something take a minute, pause and ponder about the merits and demerits of the content before swiping to the next post!

Please be careful of the news you consume, from where you consume it, when you consume it!

With that,
More Power to you!

Kushal!
#Peace


Do you have any tricks up your sleeve to consume news in a better way?


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