Media Distractions

“Are you distracted by breaking news? Then take some leisure time to learn something good, and stop bouncing around.” – Marcus Aurelius

It can be difficult to block the media from your view. Over the last year or more I have been trying to limit my access.

Several years ago, I was having a conversation with someone at work about the situation in the Ukraine and made me realize how limited my knowledge is in that region of the world. I decided at the time to get a magazine subscription to The Economist, and follow current events a little more closely.

However, over time I have become more disillusioned. And have been swinging to the other end of being more selective in reading news.

I removed Facebook from my phone, reviewed and turned off notifications for news items. I stopped visiting news websites for things that are not immediately important to me (ex: housing market info while looking at buying a house).

Instead I have been turning attention toward books more and engineering shows/documentaries. The nature of the publishing business is that it takes much more time and investment to author a book and as a result there is more thought and research to going deep into the ideas. I love learning about engineering ideas because they are usually so positive and constructive – how did they overcome this problem, why is it designed that way, etc.

With the news, I attempt to ask myself 2 questions to ascertain it’s value.

  1. Is this something that will affect the actions I take in the near future
  2. Is it an opportunity to learn about new ideas or be educational

So I have become ignorant to things that are happening, yet at the same time it is impossible to eliminate exposure to all the news. Trump tweets, shootings or pipeline approvals are passionate discussions that are high on fear and angst but low in value. Somehow despite aggressively limiting my news intake I still hear about these things.

Limiting news is an ongoing effort to be selective about the information and ideas that go into my brain. Reading, as they say, is the closest thing there is to mind control. We can be in control of the reading we do, and thus control to a certain extent and with some strategy a direction we would like our thoughts to take us.