News By Proxy

It’s Not The Same

Here’s the funny thing about news: no matter how much people still consume it, less and less people consume it the same way as they used to. News has changed. I remember when there were scheduled television slots in the mornings and evenings when families could tune it, like ours.

We used to look forward to it in the evenings, and we’d sit down and watch them like we do now with Netflix. But now? I don’t even know what to call it now. I have only three sources of news at the moment, none of which are long-form by any means, and I think I’m on the lower end of the spectrum: Morning Brew, Twitter, and my Whatsapp Groups.

Clickbait Ruined It

I think a big reason why the news has changed so much is that we’ve changed. We’ve become desensitized to things, and we approach the various delivery methods differently. I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole of what the internet has done to (and for) us as a species, but I will say that it changed the way we consume things, news being a big one of those things.

As soon as we were in front of screens for much larger portions of the day, suddenly we were so easily distracted by shiny things. And many of those shiny things were little squares of enticing imagery and even more enticing titles. Back then, why wouldn’t you want to find out more about “You won’t believe what this teen did at her highschool…” or “400 000 people have tried this…”? Those sound like they could be the start of some great stories. But now? Now we don’t even give them a second glance.

As soon as we overindulge in one thing, the goalposts move, and then they move again. We get used to something and then it becomes boring. We’ve gotten so good at this, that marketers change it up before this happens naturally. That way, we’re always engaged in what they have to say. In my opinion, though, that’s a double-sided coin. One one side, you have a society that is constantly evolving, which is great; and then you have the other, which shows we’re just mindless sheep following our shepherds…errr…content-providers.

Trust People, Not Providers

I have this little theory. I’ve been practising it for some time now and it seems to have worked out for me: If it’s important, you’ll find out about it. That’s it. That’s the theory. But let me unpack it a bit for you.

There is so much new information out there, that you could never keep up with it. I could throw a statistic into this sentence, but as soon as I write it, it would be outdated. And so, because there is so much information available, we have to be ultra-careful as to what we give our attention and our time to. The attention-economy is debilitating, and we are constantly drawn between a multitude of things that just need to get done. So why would we sit down and watch someone tell us things about the world we probably don’t even need to know or care about? Because we do actually care, whether we like it or not.

Human beings are social animals. We care. So no matter how much we want to disconnect and focus on our own lives, we just have to know what is going on around us. Call it FOMO, or call it whatever you want, but that’s how the cookie crumbles in our evolving information age.

The problem that I find comes in, is that I have trouble knowing what to pay attention to. I want to know what’s happening around me, but who do I listen to? What app do I use? What program do I tune in to? So what I ended up doing, is I listened to what the people I already trusted wanted to tell me. Funnily enough, it worked.

I don’t tune into programs or put the radio on when I’m driving. I listen to podcasts from people I look up to, and I listen to my friends when they tell me something they found important. That’s another funny thing. Usually (bar for a few of those talkative friends), your friends won’t tell you anything that’s happening in their world unless they believe it’s worth sharing with you, because it could affect yours. Listen to those people.

I’ve gone the past few years without needing to rely on news outlets to tell me what’s going on. I listen to my friends. Different friends also tell me different things, because (believe it or not) we all have our own interests and deem our own things important enough to share. One friend always tells me about the current political world in South Africa, and another tells me about the latest video games that are coming out (and the occasional blockbuster movie I would never have found out about otherwise). All that is important for me to know, but I don’t need to go far for it. It comes to me.

This isn’t to say I’m only on the receiving end. I also tell those friends, and others, what I deem important enough to share. I’m only a small link in a very large chain of insight and information, just like you. In fact, here I am talking to you, which is no small thing considering you could be spending your valuable time reading News24, trolling Facebook or finally watching Stranger Things; to which I am immensely grateful for.

Refine Your Inputs

I shared at the beginning of this article that I have three news “providers” that I pay attention to, which are all very intentional. In fact, they are each used in their own ways to get different types of information.

Morning Brew is a fantastic newsletter which breaks down current global news into bite-sized nuggets that are both interesting and wittily written. I use this to keep up with what’s happening, in a very general sense. If I find something is interesting enough to dive deeper into, they always provide links to do so; otherwise, I take it at surface-value and move on. Then there’s Twitter, which I use to stay up-to-date with what people are saying and thinking in real-time. Also, due to the 240-character limit on posts, people have to share things concisely and simply, which I believe is valuable in our age of (mostly unintentional) verbosity. And finally, I have my close friends. I’ve already said why this group is important, but I will reiterate that for me it is the most important.

Without people I trust, I would be alone, and I count myself lucky to have friends and family that share their lives and interests with me. I want to do the same for them, because they keep me going through times of uncertainty and struggle, which is one small but significant part of why I write this blog.

When someone wants to update you, don’t brush it off or take them for granted. Those are the relationships that define you, because they guide what you pay attention to and what you learn in the end. Embrace the people around you, because the world is too big to know everyone and everything. But that’s also what makes it so exciting. So I want to take this moment to say thank you for reading and listening to what I have to say. It means a lot to me, and I hope you can learn something from it, however small. Until the next one, I hope you have a great day, and you stay inspired.

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Zachary Styles

Zachary Styles

Full-time designer, illustrator and lettering artist. Part time lecturer. Part time student. Experiencing the world through words, both written and drawn.