People read the Times not to find out what happened where and when, but to find out who is to be comforted and who afflicted. People just want to be on the same page as their peers.
reminds me of Scott Alexander on the phatic:
Consider a very formulaic conservative radio show. Every week, the host talks about some scandal that liberals have been involved in. Then she explains why it means the country is going to hell. I don’t think the listeners really care that a school in Vermont has banned Christmas decorations or whatever. The point is to convey this vague undercurrent of “Hey, there are other people out there who think like you, we all agree with you, you’re a good person, you can just sit here and listen and feel reassured that you’re right.” Anything vaguely conservative in content will be equally effective, regardless of whether the listener cares about the particular issue.
my best guess of the typical experience is being in social reality 99.9% of the time. The 0.1% are extreme shocks, cases when physical reality kicks someone so far off-script they are forced to confront it directly. These experiences are extremely unpleasant, and processing them appears as “depression and anxiety”. One looks at the first opportunity to dive back into the safety of social reality, in the form of a communal narrative that “makes sense” of what happened and suggests an appropriate course of action.
Really? Shouldn’t “typical experience” include small business owners running sales forecasts, truckers navigating new environments, and a contractor building a staircase? It seems to me that lots of normal people contend with novel situations in objective reality on a regular basis. What really seems noteworthy to me is how domain-specific that mode of thought tends to be. A guy who builds houses can tell when some new construction regulation is not reality-based, but he will not think twice about questionable statements from the CDC.
Notice how your examples are working class. The middle class or Venkat’s aptly named clueless are maximally insulated from causal reality.
Social reality topics are often things in the news. When I was a student I realised I could just stop following the news because it almost never affected me. Only maybe once a year was there anything in the news that I needed to know, because it would affect my short-term actions. (COVID of course being a notable exception.)
The kind of serious news I follow is about real-world events—albeit in politics, things happening in other countries, etc. - causally distant from me. Not local news, which may be the most likely to affect me, though in some trivial way (a new store opening or something).
Those who follow celebrity culture etc. are even less affected by the ‘news’ they follow, except I suppose insofar as it’s about new films, albums etc. which they might see/buy. Indeed such people see the news more like what it is. Its main effect is in the meta (= social reality) realm, as a source of talking points. You ‘need’ to know the news in order to join in conversations with your friends about the news.
The relevance or truth of the news is beside the point. For the same applies to the ‘need’ to read Harry Potter, if everyone else is talking about it.