Is It Time To Ditch News Feed Apps?

by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, July 25, 2020

The sad truth is I’m a Flipboard addict. And if I’m really jonesing for news, I’ll also check Apple News and Google News. I compulsively tap my iPhone several times a day for more new news, speed reading through dozens of digital essays and news stories every day. But Flipboard is starting to irritate me with all its ads, and more than that, my comprehension skills are deteriorating.

Although the internet is instant, smartphones are convenient, and news feed apps are comprehensive, I’m not sure they are the best conduits of news. Oh, they definitely get me more news from a greater variety of sources updated by the second, but I’m not sure its the best way to stay informed. And I’m not sure if it’s not becoming abusive to my neurons.

People often say less is more. News feed apps work on the principle of sending you news customized for your interests. Often content is barely more than blurbs with ads, and generally the same information is repeated or restated by countless news outlets, sources, and publishers. There is lots of substantial content, but lately, more than not, it’s behind a paywall.

I’m reading in a hyperactive mental state, gobbling down facts in a frantic effort stay informed. But am I? I’m starting to wonder if I read less if I’d be more informed?

Could carefully choosing my own news sources be the wiser path? Could a couple of newspapers and a handful of magazines, digital or print, offer a better news experience than a news feed service? I don’t know, but I’m thinking about trying the route. I just don’t know if I can break the news feed app habit.

I’m also tempted to go back to printed magazines and newspapers for some of that reading. The cost of printing tends to control what is printed. And I’m also wondering if reading less from a slower source might be advantageous. I really have no answers right now, but my hunch at the moment is pushing me to read less news on my iPhone. However, I’m not sure I can give up that much convenience.

It occurs to me now that I actually enjoyed TV more when there were only three networks. And music was more fun when I could only afford to buy one new album a week. Maybe there’s a downside to convenient abundance.


11 thoughts on “Is It Time To Ditch News Feed Apps?”

  1. You make excellent points and I am reminded of the difference between information and wisdom. Being well informed doesn’t mean one is wise.

    There is such a thing as “slow news” meaning reviewing what happened three months ago, six months ago, 12 months ago, etc. Most of the stuff flooding into news aggregators has a shelf life of 24 to 48 hours. Asking oneself, will this information make any difference 6 months from now can be a great way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Digital media is good for some things, but as you point out, there is still an important place for print media. I get a lot of print magazines and journals which I prize and enjoy but I can’t read them all. So, inadvertently, I have gotten into the pattern of sometimes not reading them until a few months or evey a year after their arrival date on my book shelf. It is suprising how much of the content is no longer relevent. Saves me a lot of time and energy letting the news ferment and seeing what is still savory after a period of time.

    Clearing out the digital clutter will lead to a longer more satisfying life. What difference will any of it make when you’re dead anyway?

    1. I like the idea of slow news. I also like the idea of waiting a while and having some news become no longer needed. How many subjects do we need to be immediately informed about? I don’t think many. On the other hand, how many subjects do we need a deeper insight into? Actually, quite a lot.

  2. Hey, James…
    It has been said that “Brevity is the soul of wit”.
    I wrote it this way, in part, as dated:

    Sunday, July 13, 2014, 0604
    My old man’s generation had Sunday mornings and the newspaper. I have a cup of tea and the internet. My old man would spend three hours reading the newspaper and the rest of the day working on the crossword puzzle. It takes less than one cup of hot tea and two cigarettes for me to scan hundreds of headlines to reach the same conclusion every single day: Humans are idiots. The real fun begins while scanning through the comments. Ask me why I have no hope for humans and I’ll point to the comments of any news story. [end]

      1. My nephew is a psychiatrist and the first thing he tells a new patient is: “Stop watching, reading, and listening to the News.” Information overload affects many of us. And, as you point out, most of the NEWS is bad. No wonder depression and alcoholism and drug use continue to rise during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Perhaps, in the case of the News, less is more.

        1. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Work Psychotherapist who after 50 years in the field still is practicing in my own solo psychotherapy practice seeing between 20 – 25 clients per week. I often tell my clients the same thing. The same advice is given about social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

          You can live life or watch it go by. You can be a participant or a spectator.

          I don’t believe it is an all or nothing proposition but one of limiting one’s exposure in a discriminating and selective way. No more than an hour per day.

  3. This post resonates with me a lot!
    I’ve found an app called inshorts which really helps me out! It condenses most articles into just what is relevant and needed into about 100-150 words!
    You can literally keep most of the unnecessary news out!
    This app definitely helps me out to keep me informed just enough!

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