Cutting News Clutter

“News Is the Last Thing We Need Right Now,” David at Raptitude says in his recent post, which is possibly the best thing I’ve ever read about the value of limiting one’s “news” intake.

Of course it’s important to stay informed about news that’s important to us. But what’s “informed”? And what’s “important”? We have to decide consciously, in order to avoid getting burnt-out and letting our brains be overrun by clutter.

I take in a mixture of global and local news, but I’m very picky about what I give my attention to, and how much time I spend taking it in. I’ve been on a “news diet” for maybe 15 years now, and it really helps keep me focused.

Generally, I feel well-enough informed. And I feel strongly it’s best not to devote too much attention to bad news we can’t do anything about (whether because it’s beyond our sphere of influence, because it’s beyond our chosen areas of focus and we only have so much time and energy, or what have you.). David expresses a similar mind-set.

Yes, there was the time I was having a phone visit with some friends in DC who I hadn’t spoken with in 30 years. They were shocked when they asked, “What do you think of <name of some federal bigwig in the news>?” — and I confessed I didn’t know who the person was. Among the inside-the-Beltway intelligentsia, such ignorance (both having it in the first place, and confessing it) is unheard of. And is akin to confessing murder or letting your dog poop on the sidewalk and not picking it up.

Once they told me who the person was, I remembered: “Oh yeah, that guy.” I had heard enough news, that had made it through my news filter, to know the situation; I just didn’t remember the guy’s name. All in all, my news filter works exactly as I need it to. (BTW I no longer remember, or need to remember, who the person was at all, or what the newsworthiness of him was. Some confirmation hearing or other.)

Anyway! I will probably have more thoughts about news-filtering, news-diets. And when I do, I will come back and add them to this post. In the meantime, go read David’s article! It’s a jewel! And I hope you find it helpful in taming the mad noise of the modern world, so you can enjoy some inward peace and also so you can better focus on your chosen works.

OK. More thoughts:

A conscious decision to limit one’s news intake is a form of surrender. Not to be mistaken for apathy, it’s actually a very ethical and compassionate choice. It’s recognizing, “Hey! I can’t take all of this in.” Recognizing and surrendering to that reality.

And by making that surrender, we free ourselves up to give due attention — the amount and kind of attention we’ve decided is appropriate — to the things and events we’ve decided are important to us.

Similar to the radical news-intake reduction is a choice to reduce one’s “social aperture” in order to be able to devote the proper care and attention to the relationships we consider important.

Social media allows us a huge range of contacts. It can feel like a fire hose. Sometimes I’ve seen myself get so scattered responding to everyone’s updates, that I neglect to check on my closest friends. So that’s a thing I’m fine-tuning right now. I have a lot of contacts because social media is a huge part of my work. It’s a major channel for my efforts. But I’m experimenting with a bit of a “diet” or “discernment boost” of the social aspect of things. It’s early in the effort yet but seems to be yielding some success.

Here’s another great read for you: Madisyn Taylor (DailyOM) on “Control.” “The answer to control is practicing surrender.” Perfect that this showed up in my email box today.