Because like wheat in my body, news causes inflammation in my mind. It triggers a response of, Oh no. Uh oh. Woah. Ah man. Really? Again? Dang. Shit. That sucks. And on and on, until my head is just buzzing.
Like gluten in my joints, it causes aching in my spirit. I ask myself, am I any better from hearing this? Am I any worse?
Seth Godin says news is “previously unknown. When it’s breaking, it propels itself even harder, because we know that we’re about to hear something previously unheard.” Newspapers may have faded, but the internet feeds us news like never before.
How many times do we need to hear of the same unfortunate things that happen? Henry David Thoreau wrote, “if we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked… or one mad dog killed… we never need read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications?”
Does hearing these things over and over add any value to life? Is it necessary for our well being to know every time? Are we being inconsiderate of all the people in this world by not looking for instances of misfortune? Perhaps. Are we being ignorant by knowing just once that something bad has occurred? By some definitions, yes.
But I can be satisfied hearing it just once, and knowing that it might happen often. I can understand the chances of something going wrong for me without having to read about it elsewhere every day.
Thoreau reflects on this craving for news. “After a night’s sleep the news is as indispensable as the breakfast… ‘Pray tell me anything new that has happened to a man anywhere on this globe.’”
My convictions about news were made more solid hearing Tim Ferriss talk about his “low information diet”. He limits the amount of information he feeds himself – whether directly or indirectly.
Ferriss distinguishes “need to know” from “just in case” information. He looks for information he needs to know to make a decision. Contrast this with constantly consuming information just in case he needs it in the future.
I learned the concept of “decision fatigue” from Tim Ferriss as well. The concept that we have a limited amount of power per day to make decisions. That we have a bank of decision-making units, and that the harder, or more drawn out, or higher-stakes decisions cost more, but the smaller, seemingly inconsequential, and less acknowledged decisions also take up much of our resources.
It’s the small, less impactful decisions we struggle over all day every day that drain our energy away from making the bigger decisions. This leads to Ferriss’ principle of the “choice minimal lifestyle”.
The choice minimal lifestyle is the mode of allowing fewer options to require less mind power to decide. We save more mind power, attention, and presence for enjoying life after that decision. We can simplify and cut down the time it takes to choose something.
So yes, I could make predictions of the market, escape to Mars before the next world war, be ready to discuss the last tragic death of a teenager, worry about how long my current computer will be current. But those things take mind energy away from the purpose of my own life.
Let the news writers write, let the gossipers gossip, let the Facebook feed roll. We’ll be steadfast in the choice of information to power our dreams.