Tips for Reducing your consumption of Pop Culture through the News.
I’ve had a number of debates with people over the concept of staying informed about the world around you versus experiencing the joy of blissful ignorance. I can see both sides of the argument. On the one hand, we don’t want to turn into complete ignorant idiots. It’s important to be knowledgeable about the world and what is happening in it. On the other hand, how much does our modern Pop News actually reflect what is going on in the world, and does it negatively affect your life?
It was not too long ago that the news was mostly local, with some national and international thrown in, as necessary. People got their local newspaper delivered to the door each morning. The only time to watch news on TV was one hour per day. I remember my parents blocking out an hour of time in the evening to watch the news. The news came on from 6:00 – 7:00 pm, and that was it. So the news station had to cram everything that happened into that one hour. Most of it was what was happening locally. If there was something big happening nationally or internationally, it would be covered as well. Nowadays we are inundated with multiple 24/7 news channels, constant internet feeds, etc. It’s extreme excess. It’s way too much. So how do we stay informed while not allowing the Pop State to turn our brains into mush?
There is no one size fits all answer, and remember that this is all part of the Exit Strategy. It’s not intended to be an end state. I will try to offer some tips on how to Reduce your consumption of Pop Culture through the news.
Low Information Diet – Tim Ferriss writes about something he calls the Low Information Diet or Selective Ignorance. He advocates not paying much attention at all to what is in the news and relying on a select few confidants for information. Think of a few people you trust and who have your best interests in mind when it comes to how to think and what you should know. They should be people who are relatively knowledgeable about the world themselves. Once a week or so, ask them what is going on in the world. Ask them for the high level overview. Alternatively, you could ask them to let you know anytime something is happening that they feel you should know about. The obvious eventual problem with this is that if everyone did this, no one would be knowledgeable. It’s a way of outsourcing your information consumption, but our ultimate goal should be to help society as a whole reduce their Pop State consumption.
Local News – If most of your news consumption comes from national level sources, try seeking out some local sources. Whether you consume news on TV, internet or paper, try to swap out national for local. It might be less exciting, but local news is often less sensationalized and relevant to your life. If a murder happens on the other side of the country, do you really need to know about it? If a murder happens in your neighborhood, would you want to know about it? If you live your life locally, consume news locally.
Scan headlines – If you typically read the news online, this takes a lot of willpower to resist clickbait. First, make a vow not to click on anything you see. Next, visit your usual news website. Scroll down through the first few articles. There is usually no need to look below the first few articles. Read the headlines only. This will give you a glimpse into what is going on. You can easily get a feel for if it is a slow news day or there is something important going on. Then leave the website. Later in the day, decide if there were any articles that you wanted to read further. If so, go back to it and read that article only. Chances are that you won’t feel the need to revisit it later, but even if you do, it will give you time to consider whether you should spend more time on it. The same goes for an actual newspaper. Scan each page quickly, or better yet, scan the first few pages quickly. Then put it down and pick it back up only if there was something that really needed to be read.
Car radio – If you just need something to listen to during your commute, try a podcast instead. There are plenty of podcasts by ordinary people, not the Pop State, and you can learn lots of things. Try a history podcast. History is arguably more important than current events, since history is what brings current events into context. Two podcasts that I highly recommend are the History of English Podcast and Hardcore History. Both of these are written by regular people and will make you much smarter than listening to the news. However, if politics is what you crave, try listening to C-SPAN Radio. It is usually not boring and you would be getting the unfiltered discussion of lawmakers instead of having to hear it reinterpreted by a reporter. C-SPAN is not the Pop State, it is the State. They are the people with the power to make laws and you can listen and decide for yourself what to think about them. This is highly preferable than having someone else’s opinion and interpretation shoved down your throat in an attempt to manipulate your thoughts.
TV – If you simply must watch the news on TV, try to at least limit yourself to a certain amount of time. Watch the local news in the evening, instead of the big national news networks. If you must watch the 24/7 news media on TV, then limit yourself and keep decreasing that limit as often as you can.
These were just some tips to try to help you decrease your news consumption. It’s important to stay informed about your community and the world, but there are other ways to do it than to allow the Pop State to pollute your mind through 24/7 commercialized news media propaganda. In future blog posts, I intend to examine the relationship between information and propaganda, and the nature of biases in the media. But for now, just Reduce your consumption of the news!