One of the smartest things I’ve ever done is to ignore the news. I haven’t watched network news or a 24 hour cable news channel in over a decade. I don’t read any of the mainstream news websites, nor do I read newspapers. I’ve been doing my best to willfully ignore the news for over a decade and it’s made me happier, healthier, smarter, more interesting and more successful. My ‘ignore the news’ strategy has made me a more optimistic, empathetic and positive person. Overall, completely eliminating mainstream news from my reality has had no downsides whatsoever and countless upsides.
I started to ignore the news before I read Tim Ferris’ classic ‘The 4 Hour Work Week‘ or even knew what ‘lifestyle design’ was but he’s big on ‘selective ignorance’ and eliminating the consumption of as much media as possible. I assimilated his techniques into my ‘no news’ repertoire to great success. The money shot he offers is a suggestion to anyone that thinks they’re ‘missing something’ by ignoring the news:
“Ask a well informed colleague or a restaurant waiter “Anything important happening in the world today? I couldn’t get the paper today.” Stop this as soon as you realize that the answer doesn’t affect your actions at all. Most people won’t even remember what they spent one to two hours absorbing that morning”
WHY IGNORING THE NEWS IS A GOOD IDEA
Here’s a partial list of the benefits that you’ll enjoy if you make the decision to ignore the news:
1) The News Is Technophobic
–This is not only a pet peeve of mine but does a great disservice to the hapless Americans that get their information from mainstream news. Technology and the future it is creating is something to be mocked or feared in the eyes of mainstream media. I’ve written extensively on the topic here at Future Fallout but hard to sum it better than Mike Maddock did in a column he wrote for Forbes Magazine:
Here’s a question I’d like to end with. Is our media helping to create a country of optimistic believers or fearful nonbelievers?
2) The News Is Negative— No secret here: ‘if it bleeds it leads’. The news covers the negative because focusing on the positive doesn’t draw ratings. The problem on a personal level is that thoughts create your reality and wallowing endlessesly in a sea of negativity will hurt you mentally, physically and emotionally.
3) The News Is Fear Based
–News is not only negative but designed to make viewers feel scared, helpless and hopeless. The best way to hook viewers is to suggest that everything is a ‘crisis’. This is particularly insiduous not only because of its inaccuracy but because the things we’re supposed to ‘fear’ are beyond our sphere of control. A writer named Nick St. Pierre pointed out the statistical rarity of random attacks in Chicago before making this observation:
I have a 10-year-old son. Many of you do, too. I would never let him watch the news at this age, at least most of the stories they feature (and it’d be hard to separate the good from the bad in a quick-hit newscast, so one can’t really watch ‘just the good stuff’). I mean, what’s he gonna think when he sees that a kid his age got stabbed to death while playing outside? He’s going to worry about the same thing happening to him.
4) The News Is Irrelevant–The irony of the fear mongering news media is that nothing they report has a material impact on your life and how you live it. As Tim Ferris noted in the quote I cited earlier the news doesn’t ‘affect your actions’ nor is it anything you’ll remember even a few hours later. It’s like bathing your brain in pointless negativity that doesn’t actually concern you.
5) The News Is a Tool of the Status Quo–The mainstream news media is the information organ of the status quo. Their job is to scare or alarm people about something after which a power hungry politician makes it an ‘issue’. They promote the storylines that government and the political parties want promoted and more often than not these promote a fear of the future, a fear of technological change, an imperative for war and violence and the overall concept that the individual is helpless. These are very damaging beliefs on a micro or a macro level.
6) The News Distorts Your Reality–The news distorts your reality on a number of levels. It makes you fearful, it gives you a negative outlook on life and instills feelings of hopelessness. Additionally it reduces people to being a mere function of their ideological and political beliefs when that is the least important element of their personalities. The result is a judgemental dislike for those whom you disagree with politically which is downright silly. You are responsible for creating your own reality and not feeding it with fearful distortions is a good place to start.
7) The News Is Outside Your Realm of Control
–The news tries to suggest that everything is an immediate concern or threat to your well being when in actuality none of what they report has any impact on your life whatsoever. More insidiously, the feeling of hopelessness they promulgate keeps people from making an effort to do good in ways they *can* make a difference like volunteering for a local animal rescue group or shelter for abused women. The news wants you to think that you can’t make a difference in a ‘sick, sad world‘ when the reality is that you can.
8) The News Is A Waste of Time–Pretty simple concept here–following the news is a time suck without any tangible benefit. It’s wasted time that could be spent on countless more uplifting, enriching or productive activities.
9) The News Is Not Informative
–Perhaps the biggest irony is that news addicts suggest they do it to ‘be informed’. News oversimplifies complex issues and seldom addresses them in a holistic manner. Typically, the narrative is the one that the status quo/government/politicians want advanced. This leaves the big questions unasked–for example, news coverage focuses on what to do in Iraq instead of asking why are we there and what relevance does it have on US security? They report on minor changes in NSA spying tactics instead of asking why is our government spying on us? The supposed nobility of the ‘Third Estate’ has historically been media’s role as a ‘check’ against overbearing government power and political misdeeds. The news media circa 2014 instead promotes the agenda of our government, political parties and the status quo.
10) The News Targets the Lowest Common Denominator–As media of all types grows more and more fragmented and specialized the various news outlets are faced with the same problem as other historical ‘gatekeepers’ like TV networks and radio stations. They need to aggregate a large audience to be effective and profitable but that’s harder to do in the digital era. The solution? Dumb things down…WAY down. Thus TV networks give us a never ending stream of reality shows about vapid celebrities. Even worse, the news media covers the activities of the Kim Kardasians and Justin Beibers of the world as if it was of critical importance. The news audience wants stories about Miley Cyrus, hot TV shows, and similar inane topics and the news outlets are glad to give it to them.
IGNORING THE NEWS WON’T MAKE YOU IGNORANT:
One of the best books I’ve read recently is ‘Choose Yourself’ by James Altucher. We’ll talk about this book in detail down the road but one of the best takeaways that Altucher offers is simple yet profound: Only Do Things You Enjoy. The same concept should apply to the news and information you consume. I’m interested in dogs, heavy metal, technology, Bitcoin, futurism, Japanese pro wrestling, jazz and a number of other things. So I pay attention to news on dogs, heavy metal, technology, Bitcoin, futurism, Japanese pro wrestling, jazz and a number of other things–all covered by specialized websites created by experts in their particular subject. The mainstream media doesn’t cover many of these topics and if and when they do they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Ignoring the news also doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand and ignoring the problems of our society. To the contrary, it forces you to do something other than wring your hands and fret about how bad everything is. It forces you to take action, to put your money where your mouth is and do something about a problem of importance to you. I’m disgusted by how many healthy dogs and cats are killed every year in animal shelters due to the antiquated belief that pet overpopulation is a problem that is *impossible* to solve. It isn’t and I’ve done a lot to help bring about change. You should do the same thing with whatever problems you’re motivated by–that’s a lot more beneficial to everyone concerned than subjecting yourself to the mainstream news’ onslaught of murder, war, famine and violence.
PS–BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SANCTUARY in Southern Utah works tirelessly to bring about a day where there will be no more homeless pets. Check ’em out: