News is to the mind what sugar is to the body...News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking...We are beginning to recognize how toxic news can be and we are learning to take the first steps toward an information diet.
In the paper that led to his talk at TED, Rolf describes in detail all the dangers of news, including the costs of following it. He personally went without news for over a year, and describes the freedoms he gained:
- less disruption
- more time
- less anxiety
- deeper thinking
- more insights
It's a pretty compelling paper. Rolf isn't the first one to advocate avoiding the news, and I used to do this fairly successfully. At one time I made a point of not watching the news on television or reading it on-line. I had an extended stay at the hospital last year, and with my computer, newspapers and a lot of idle time, I admit that I fell into the news trap and even up to today, Google News is a diversion several times a day. Well, that stops now. Here's how I plan to break the habit:
- Block news websites. After reading Rolf's paper I toyed with the idea of creating a browser extension to block news sites, but of course there is already an app for that! If you use Chrome, consider trying the StayFocused or SiteBlock extensions. I've tried them both out. The former is more feature rich and more geared towards setting time limits on viewing certain sites (which can be set up to include whatever news sites are slowly killing your mind), while the latter is a very simple url blocker. However they can both be set up to block something completely or set time limits.
- Stop watching the news on television. This can easily be achieved by simply canceling cable. Cancel any newspaper or news magazine subscriptions.
- Get out and do something else. When you have to read, read books.
On that last point I have a good story: I've always enjoyed watching professional hockey live and on television. A friend once asked me why I just didn't play hockey instead of watching others play it if I liked it so much. Good Advice.
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