The Article: How to stop news from ruining our lives by Alain de Botton in CNN.
The Text: We’re one of the first generations to have to deal with the torrent of information about things very far removed from our own lives. For most of history, it was extremely difficult to come by information about what was happening anywhere else. And you probably didn’t mind. What difference would it make, if you were a crofter in the Hebrides, northern Scotland, to learn that a power struggle was brewing in the Ottoman Empire?
Much of what we now take for granted as news has its origins in the information needed by people taking major decisions or at the center of national affairs. We still hear the echoes in the way news is reported; timing is assumed to be critical, as it really would be if we were active agents. If you don’t have the latest update you might make a terrible blunder or miss a wonderful opportunity.
Ease of communication and a generous democratic impulse mean that information originally designed for decision-makers, now gets routinely sent via the media to very large numbers of people. It is as if a dossier, with the latest news from Kiev, which might properly arrive on the desk of a minister has accidentally been delivered to the wrong address and ends up on the breakfast table of a librarian in Colchester or an electrician in Pitlochry. But the librarian or electrician might quite reasonably turn round and politely point out that they can’t do anything with this knowledge and that, surely, the files have come to them by mistake. They don’t, but only because habit has closed our eyes to the underlying strangeness of the phenomenon.