I watch no television, listen to no radio and read no newspapers. I don’t even allow Facebook feed to fuck with my brain. And you know what? It feels great!
I’m was an information addict. Back in high-school days I used to watch 4 hours of TV each day. When something prevented me from getting a daily dose I felt weird and stressed out.
I always dove into politics very much. That’s because I care passionately about the decisions made by the government or the laws going through the parliament. I used to read plenty of essays on politics and news on recent developments.
On top of that there’s all the interests and professional news I consumed every day. That’s why I could declare myself an infovore. A term I learned from Mitch Joel. These days I’m a knowledge and wisdom addict. Here’s how it changed.
Low Information Diet
Few years ago I learned about the low information diet from Tim Ferris’ book. He basically said that most of the news is negative, irrelevant, time-consuming and non-actionable.
This was an “a-ha” moment. Why would I punish myself like that?
How It’s Like To Live Under a Rock?
Last year there was European football championships. I’ve learned that it’s coming soon from… a can of coke. I went to a grocery store downstairs from my home. I first noticed some kind of “fan kit” by the counter and thought to myself “there must be some big sports event coming”. Then I picked the can and it was different than usual. It said “FIFA EURO 2016 France”. The next action for me was to search for a schedule of matches I could add to my Google calendar. And I was done consuming news about football until interesting matches :)
I still consume a lot of information. But I do it consciously. I mostly read books. If I read articles they usually come from my friends through Slack, email or sometimes FB if I look there. However I read them much later than when they reach me. I always hit “Read it later”, which saves them to my Instapaper app . Since there’s plenty of articles I have saved there I tend to read older stuff. This way it’s easier to filter out the things that were relevant only in that past moment. From the perspective of time it’s easy to see which stuff is timeless and worth reading and what was only a pulp of infotainment.
Outside of that I’m using RSS feeds (rarely) to read stuff from people who’s view I respect. I listen to podcasts about things that are interesting to me. I follow a couple of YouTube channels. I still learn Twitter. I rarely launch it but it’s getting a better and better for me. Especially since I discovered that “unfollow is the most important button on Twitter” :) Needless to say I have most notifications on my phone turned off.
FOMO: Am I Going To Miss Important Information?
No. If information is really important it’ll get a way to me. I’ve learned that on many occasions. For example I’ve known about the developments in US elections from friends, from private Slack chat channels, from lunch conversations. Discussion about politics also diffuses to the podcasts and YT channels I follow. But I only hear an echo of all those events.
In case of outbreak of World War III or something equally dramatic and relevant happening people will tell you, you’ll hear that from a radio in the store or notice headlines on a news stand. There’s no escaping it.
Facebook Fucks Your Brain
Back in the day there was a saying:
TV fucks your brain.
It was true. Now it’s Facebook that messes up your mind. Have you ever went to FB just to check if there’s a notification about stuff you posted and found yourself half an hour later reading about some controversial figure saying something stupid? Don’t blame yourself.
The feed is designed to cause emotional reaction. To pull you in. To show you stuff you really like or you have strong feelings about. The algorithm decides what to show you. The key metric Facebook follows is the number of people who are active at least 6 days a week. The only thing that matters to Facebook is that you keep coming back for more. It’s just like a drug dealer.
It’s not just a catchy metaphor. It’s substantial! Each time you consume a bit of information your brain produces hormones. They’re seriously strong drugs created by nature to build beneficial habits. Facebook is excellent in exploiting that mechanism. Each time you consume a bit of information, your brain gets a candy.
Obviously this applies to all kinds of social media and media. Only Facebook seems to be the most sticky one.
How Does It Feel To Live In a Cave?
It is great! Random thoughts and emotions don’t bounce around my head. I don’t get frustrated with stupidity and all the bad things happening in the (big) world. I’m focused on being here and now. With my real thoughts and people around me. On work and having fun.
Actually it’s my Facebook who suffers FOMO these days! :) For the last two weeks I’m not feeding it with links, comments or likes. Facebook started to generate random, desperate “notifications”. Those are ridiculous prompts about irrelevant stuff. That someone I didn’t interact on Facebook for months posted a photo… that someone liked something… Those are non-notifications. Those are artificial events generated by the algorithm to get me back into the loop.
Benefits Of Living Under a Rock
After years of this approach I now notice how bad it was to be in that treadmill of infotainment. When I go to my family for Christmas I watch some TV. I watch it like a tourist a sees a new city. I’m amazed by the news, by the commercials. That’s when I appreciate not having a TV at home.
Thanks to the info diet, I noticed that visiting Facebook feed makes me feel down. There’s so many bad things happening… There’s so many people being wrong… But it’s all fake. It’s not the real world. You can only realise that when you shut it down and stop injecting those impulses.
One more thing is less appetite for consumption. I sometimes fail at my diet and consume just a tiny bit of the information. I noticed that when I do I immediately find myself needing new stuff. Things I didn’t realise existed a few minutes ago start to seem attractive. Somehow my reality, my home and possessions start being less than satisfactory. Like they’ve become broken within minutes. Even though there was everything OK with my stuff just before being exposed to all those celebrity lifestyles, points of view and ads.
Spending less time consuming junk frees me up to learn stuff that’s useful or important. I like the concept of the information half-life. It says something along the lines:
The information is expected to live 2x longer that it already lives.
So for example since the Bible has been around for thousands of years it’ll probably stick around for a few more millennia. Same goes for ancient philosophers. Not so much yesterday’s news. It’ll be irrelevant 2 days from now. So why bother?
All of that actually comes to a choice: what’s important to you? Are you making that choice or is someone making it for you? Are you sailing somewhere (pulling the right information) or are you drifting pushed by the waves (being fed information)?