Ignore The Fucking News

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I have a confession to make.

The last time I picked up a newspaper was 3 years ago.

The last time I watched the news on TV was 5 years ago – during the financial crisis.

[easy-tweet tweet=”I don’t read a single newspaper, offline or online, and I don’t watch any TV at all. #truestorybro” user=”justaklboy” template=”dark”]

Ironically, choosing not to subscribe to the news was the best decision I have made when it comes to acquiring knowledge and understanding a topic in depth.

Let’s Get Real

Seriously: When was the last time you heard a positive story on the news?

I’ll wait.

It doesn’t happen very often.

Now, I wasn’t always a news-avoider.

I use to read the newspaper every day – figuring out what’s happening with my tax money, who is Taylor Swift dating or bitching on songs about, and discussing at length about the same tabloid issues during lunch with my colleagues.

I thought I was ‘knowledgeable’.

On my 23rd birthday, I was contemplating if I have mastered any new topic over the last 1 year.

The answer: Zero, nothing!

But, I know everything that was happening around the world and in Malaysia extensively (got it from reading newspapers and whatever lists that BuzzFeed was putting out every day).

That realisation made me move to the opposite extreme – to fuck all the news sources.

I Never Turned Back

I have now gone without news for two years, so I can see, feel and report the effects of this freedom first-hand: less disruption, less anxiety, deeper thinking, more time, more insights. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Let me explain what I mean. Below, you’ll see screenshots of Malaysia’s top news sites (from yesterday) with the red zone as things that I can’t do anything about (no-control), yellow for mildly interesting that I am pretty is a native ad and green for things that I can do something about.

The Star Newspaper on 22nd of August 2016
The Star Newspaper on 24th of August 2016
News Strait Times on 22nd of August 2016
News Strait Times on 24th of August 2016
Says.com on the 24th August 2016 (and yes, Says is a piece of crap site for anyone who is interested in real knowledge)
Says.com on the 24th August 2016 (and yes, Says is a piece of crap site for anyone who is interested in real knowledge)
The trending pieces on Vulcan Post on the 24th of August 2016 (yes, 80% of them are Pokemon related, wtf?)
The trending pieces on Vulcan Post on the 24th of August 2016 (yes, 80% of them are Pokemon related, wtf?)

Now, you starting to see the point I am trying to make? Let’s get deeper then!

But, How..?

“The news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news and it’s not entirely the media’s fault, bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news.” – Peter McWilliams

When I expressed the same thoughts to a friend, she said: “but how are you going to know what’s happening with 1MDB fund and where is Jho Low hiding?”

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My answer to this is a simple and logical one.

Bad political things happen all the time, all around the world. I don’t have space for all the negativity that the news tries to instil upon us every day. Caring about these type of news flips me out of a productive, positive mood and I can’t see the benefit in that. Subconsciously, it gives you a reason to blame the ‘government’ for your own laziness and lack of hustle. I rather spend the time learning about business or science that I can apply to my own line of work, than learning about where did the RM2.6billion go.

News is Toxic

we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind.
—Rolf Dobelli

News is to the mind what sugar is to the body. It’s simple and tasty. Once you get hooked on it, your body craves for it. It’s easy to digest but not the worst of quality. Just like simple sugar, news gets fed to us by media in small bite sizes. We accept it with no thinking as its all processed for us to just swallow and assimilate.

giphy (4)

The consumption of news can cause obesity in the form of an overload of useless information. Just like how too much sugar turns into fat, too much useless information turns to toxic for the brain.

Just look at the endless streams of articles and news pieces that get shared on your facebook or twitter, and honestly ask yourself ‘How many of those articles are ACTUALLY beneficial to you, your work or your business?’. I bet half of them were from BuzzFeed and the other half were about how food is being made from around the world.

After some time, the behaviour of reading and catching up to these news becomes a habit. Before you know it, you will stop enjoying doing it and just do it because you are addicted to it.

That’s toxic – like how nicotine is addictive.

Push information vs Pull information

“In the age of technology, there is constant access to vast amounts of information. The basket overflows; people get overwhelmed; the eye of the storm is not so much what goes on in the world, it is the confusion of how to think, feel, digest, and react to what goes on.”
― Criss Jami, Venus in Arms

giphy (5)

I think the information that we are bombarded daily should be classified as push information – where people are feeding us the info. Our brain is not conditioned to absorb and organise the information to come up with something actionable.

Over time, these information gets archived in our memory and forgotten. Although on the surface, reading newspaper seems like a productive thing to do, but because of the push factor, you are just wasting time and energy.

By choosing exactly the information that we need at this moment to solve a particular problem that you are facing, you effectively use the information. In addition, you remember it for a longer period as you assimilated it arrived at your own conclusion.

This type of information is called pull information where you control what you receive and you have a specific output that you derived from it. Here, you spend energy creating something instead of just consuming. You seek them out with intention and purpose.

The world doesn’t need more people who mindlessly digest whatever information is around. What the world needs are people who learn with purpose, who take action on the things that are important to them, and who seek out high-quality information as a way to spark creativity — not as an excuse to consume even more.

Still Not Convinced?

“One reason that cats are happier than people is that they have no newspapers.”
― Gwendolyn Brooks, In the Mecca

We are not informed enough to understand the news. For example, during the disappearance of MH370, every editor, blogger, writer, journalist, and anyone with a pen had an opinion about it and wrote about it extensively.

Remember these jokers?
Remember these jokers?

All these pieces had no explanatory power. The random write up about the people who went missing and the conspiracies that the media was unearthing out of nowhere were completely pointless.

It took anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months for good journalists to put a piece that covers everything from what happened to the plane, to people who went missing, to the theories and what could have happened.

Investigative journalism is always relevant. We need reporting that polices our institutions and uncovers the truth. These are normally articles that spans 10 pages with lots of citations and graphs/shreds of evidence to support the claims made. One of these investigated pieces is better than following the news every day because you are curious to what happened. The other news pieces are complete time wasters.

This gets worse in business news. Any business journalist that writes that “The market moved because of X” or “the company went bankrupt because of Y” is an idiot.

Good business pieces will include all the pieces that were involved in making the market move – as any macroeconomic movement is a domino and not a coin toss.

The more tabloid (non-investigated junk in the newspaper) that you read, the less you understand what is actually happening behind the scene. If more information leads to higher economic success, we’d expect journalists to be at the top of the pyramid. That’s not the case.

News makes us negative and passive towards what we read. It moulds us to have a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised, sarcastic and fatalistic.

Researching for this article and reading the news to make the statistics graphs above made me feel depressed as 70% of the thing that I read were completely exaggerated pieces that made me feel helpless and depressed.

All that brain space is being taken up by the what-ifs, anger, and sadness that stories like the ones all over the news produce. This makes us primarily reactive instead of active, and then we get scared into non-action because we cannot control those things.

The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you. But people find it very difficult to recognise what’s relevant. It’s much easier to recognise what’s new. The relevant versus the new is the fundamental battle of the current age.

Media organisations want you to believe that news offers you some sort of a competitive advantage. Many fall for that. We get anxious when we’re cut off from the flow of news. In reality, news consumption is a competitive disadvantage. The less news you consume, the bigger the advantage you have.

With the internet and social media, information is not a scarce commodity as it used to be in the 90s. But our attention is – now more than ever. Why waste it away with those things that makes you feel negative?

Ignore The Fucking News

Go on a news diet.

Do seven days without the news. Don’t read it on your phone, don’t pick up the paper, don’t watch it on TV. Seven days.

Don’t cheat yourself by reading the news through facebook/twitter.

At the end of the week, ask yourself if you missed it. From my experience, the answer is no.

You’ll notice that if anything catastrophic happened, your friends and family will update you when you talk to them. Yes, not reading the news actually makes you a good listener as you want to know what’s happening.

Now, you’ll find yourself with easily half an hour or an hour extra a day. Use that time to read a book. Or get out there. Get shit done.

Some other hacks that I figured over the last few years:
1. I only read long journalist pieces on topics that I am interested in during the weekend to know end to end of a story.
2. I follow this newsletter for all my financial news: https://www.finimize.com/ – They’ll send you the most important financial news that can be digested in 3 minutes. Best. Thing. Ever.

Finimize - the only financial news that I follow!
3. I like listening to podcasts about politics, history and world news instead of reading news pieces. Do this over weekends when I have one full hour to concentrate on them. A good one to start – http://www.dancarlin.com/hardcore-history-series/

Hardcore History - One of the best podcasts on History. Period.
Hardcore History – One of the best podcasts on History. Period.

Also published on Medium.

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By SK