What is news?
What is happening, we all want to know how our friends are, what our families are doing. We are interested in what is happening in the lives of others, it is deep in our culture and probably in our genes. We want to know what is important to them, how they are living their lives, we want to learn from their positive experiences and what misfortune to avoid. We learn about ourselves, by the lessons learnt by others, and how to be who we are. It is better to learn from the mistakes of others rather than having to learn them by our own experience, not that we always do so, but at least our awareness and knowledge grows.
Empathy helps us in our learning, it makes the experience of others more real, we visualize both the pain of others and how they felt, by how we would feel in the same situation. When it was just our tribe, when we only knew between a dozen and a hundred people, and the day was full of hunting, gathering, growing and hard back breaking work. The opportunities for such empathy was limited, the tribe only came together to eat and keep warm, there was no need for an off switch, so we gave each other our full attention we would listen to others with a full open heart and we would experience it with them as the story was told, we would soak in this valuable free experience. Stories would be told and retold, entire oral history emerged to be passed down from generation to generation and they formed the back bone of societies.
Some of the first great stories are still told today, the bible, Koran and the way, we can not imagine how powerful these stories first were, against the dark background of peasant life, where the best stories you knew involved practical bad decisions, accident with axes and how uncle Charlie should not have messed with that wolf. The religious stories were full of magic and wonder, they were important as they told a story of who we are, how to live and they were the first attempts at explaining the depth of life beyond mere survival. They also stood alone in that attempt to give meaning and purpose to live, which contrasts so strongly with modern life, and the constant drip of the feed, one story after another with no discrimination, each catching your attention with a headline or image. Each of which tries to make you empathize and connect to them.
It is a profitable industry and it is indifferent to whether a story is worthwhile or important. They only care about the click rate and they are prepared to use every tool in the box to convert you into traffic. To be clear in this battle for attention, there are thousands of some of the smartest people in the world, who's only job is to retain your interest, the whole Facebook company is against you, and it's greatest weapon is your interest and empathy. However like so many things empathy is a limited resource you only have so much of it. You have to make a decision about how you use it or you can click it away in a few hours of browsing news stories.
Which returns us to the question, what is news? Is news what you know is going to happen, people, have accidents, do bad things, they die, so who decides which are newsworthy. Almost all deaths do not make the news, only the ones we empathy with, little girls, airplane crashes, Tesla failures these make you feel something because they relate to your worries and concerns. Though there are enough of them to make ourselves feel like we are surrounded by death and misery.
Whilst we can not empathize with every death in the world, what really matters are the trends, which way these deaths are going, instead of two hours of news watching or constant updates, touch on the news for a minute of headline scanning for anything important and then let go and read a book about something you care about, if you empathize with poor people dying, read a book on why it is happening, liking a post about it does not achieve anything. If are worried about hungry children, make the donation, read and learn about the economic trends and what positive action you can take. If you are wondering, it turns out people are getting richer, better feed, healthier, educated, “Factfullness” is a very good book that covers these trends and actually makes you feel good and motivated to finish the job of poverty eradication, rather than pointing at some one dying and saying this is bad. However you can not help them with your empathy, that is only about you, and do not feel bad about not feeling bad, if someone is suffering unhappiness and poverty, they do not want you to suffer as well, they want help and are generally in favour of a lot less unhappiness in the world not the opposite.
So automate your donations, and get on with helping those closest to you with your empathy instead of feeding the corporate machine that is the mass entertainment news services. Use your empathy as a motivation to learn about how to deal with the world, and how you can become a better person, how you can grow as a being of consciousness. We get to decide who we are, and how to be an effective person concentrate on what actions you can take, not as a signal of how much you feel for the suffering of others. Save your empathy for those who are closest to you, those who around you that you want to care deeper about, that is what it is there for, to create that sense of connection between the tribe and to make you stronger so you can be the best version of yourself.