Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On Disposing Garbage From My Reading List

Up until two months ago, I would have been heading to facebook.com if I ended up in a long queue for chappati at the mess. No, I wouldn't waste a lot of time reading worthless status updates. I'd only click on external links and read articles (which feigned importance).

And then, I deactivated my facebook account (as I've described here on quora).

I started reading more of thehindu.com, and my textbooks.

And that's when I realized that there's a difference between articles that you land up on after surfing social media, and articles from high quality news sources like The Hindu.

For example, till a friend told me about how sad it is that naive criticism is floating over the web and social media about Sachin receiving Bharath Ratna, I didn't know that people could even think of blaming Sachin for being conferred a prize.

But did I miss anything by not reading such hate-posts? No. There will be thousands of opinions about every event that occurs. Not all matters. A vast majority of opinions are fit for not even the trash can. Unfortunately, we meddle ourselves in all that rubbish, all day.

If I go to Google News, it's again those articles which are "hot" that is displayed more prominently. And those are most often not the ones that are comprehensive accounts of reality. People tend to click on eye-grabbing headlines. And sites like NDTV capitalize on that by publishing "news" that sounds more like gossip.

A comparison
Hindu article:
Heading: C.N.R. Rao bemoans lack of funding for science
Relevant section:
For a brief moment, Professor Rao lost his cool and criticised politicians for having given "so little." "But for the money that science receives, India, I suppose, is doing well," he said.
NDTV article:
Heading: Bharat Ratna CNR Rao calls politicians 'idiots'
The same section:
Venting out the dissatisfaction in the scientific community over "inadequate" funding, Bharat Ratna awardee and eminent scientist Professor CNR Rao today had an angry outburst as he called politicians "idiots" for giving them "so little".
"....why the hell these idiots, these politicians have given so little for us. Inspite of that, we scientists have done something," Prof. Rao said, losing his cool.

This, as I come to know from wikipedia is called sensationalism.

Which of the two articles above are people more likely to share on facebook or google or twitter? We don't have to speculate. The answers are on those links for everyone to see. At the time of writing, there's 155 fb shares, 5 tweets and 3 google+ shares for one. And 1.3k fb shares, 200 tweets and 137 +1s for the other. Which's which is anybody's guess.

It's natural for any business to try and maximize their revenue. And we can't actually blame them for trying to entice us into reading their articles. We should blame ourselves for continuing to promote such valueless journalism. We should stop reading them.

I'm not here to blame media barracks for sensationalism. I'm here to help you out of it. Human beings are naturally curious. But we don't want anyone to exploit our curiosity for their ulterior motives. Let's preserve our curiosity and apply them to find solutions for problems that genuinely need our attention.

To Do
There's only one thing to do. Mercilessly prune your reading list. Whenever you find a sensational article, remember how the author of that article must have been forced to write insensible incredulities to vie for your attention. Then, simply ignore it. Ignore your urge to open and criticize and comment and share. Ignore it and keep your mind fresh; to read a beautifully written, thought provoking, inspiring, educating article. Like, this.

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