Giving Stuff Up #2: Going on a News Diet

Hello. A new week. A different subject. I’ve always had a burning desire to share my experiences of self-help, self-development, mind management call it what you will. We all have our crosses to bear and mine always feels that little bit lighter if I can complain about the splinters to some other soul.

There is a fantastic man by the name of Rolf Dobelli. He wrote a thing about going on a news diet. I read this a while back and for the start of 2018 I went THREE WHOLE MONTHS while consuming a bare minimum of news.

My wife was under strict instructions to only inform me of news if any or all of the following were involved:
* The earth was about to explode (within the next few months at least)
* Aliens had landed
* The government had suddenly decided to make us a little less poor

During that time I am (mostly) happy that none of the above came to pass. What I got from this self-imposed censorship of ALL subjects was a feeling of deep calm and a pleasant detachment from the nitty-gritty of everyday life. I had gotten rid of a lot of the NOISE and had the undistracted presence of mind to listen to the SIGNAL.

Dobelli gives us a back of the envelope figure that the average person ‘consumes’ around 10,000 news stories in a year. He asks quite rightly how many of those changed our lives. The answer is always close to zero. In my case I missed NOTHING. The world still turned. Politicians and businesses still lied and Arsenal FC were still playing terrible football.

The more mentally robust of us will probably scoff at the need for such a Draconian measure but for those of us who are hypersensitive to things BEYOND OUR CONTROL it is incredibly empowering.

Is is that control that I felt I was lacking. In almost all aspects of life I function intermittently. I do things in clumps. At the peak of my hypomania I am able to conquer the world. When the mania fades however I want to destroy it, myself included. It’s evident some sort of balance is required here. An equilibrium of manic surges and the regret and self-loathing of post-mania. Because I have come to realise at long last that much of my depressive episodes seem to stem from that post-mania slump as a reaction and a counter to the unnatural highs.

But censorship is a tricky subject alright.

As an erstwhile scribbler of words I hold freedom of speech as a kind of holy grail. Whilst I agree with the general sentiment of the 21st century’s rush to be all-inclusive I dismay at the impact this has had on people’s feelings that they allowed by society to speak their minds. Of all of the people I consider genuinely funny (haha not ding-dong) all of them would struggle to start off as comedians in 2019. Those toeing the line of Political Correctness in the 1980s were edgy. Ben Elton famously used to get “A little bit political”. He was an annoying stand up comic but a genius writer. As unflinchingly left-wing as he was by early 1980s standards, I feel that today if he tried to tweet some of his material he would be lambasted and possibly called the very political opposite of what he clearly was.

The News Industry Does Not Exist To Make You Happier

From time to time I read a news article that horrifies me. It shouldn’t. And I don’t mean just horrify in the modern, “light disgust” kind of way I mean my heart will leap, start racing, adrenaline will course through my veins, I will immediately feel pain in my temples and a blackness descends upon me like an eclipse. I understand that this is not normal. It is no-one’s duty to protect me from this but my own. Except those close to me who know what might trigger such a reaction.

I have suggested to the BBC News site (now not used by me, I find the Guardian much higher quality even though my politics are largely middle ground – a modern sin?!) that when logged in a user should be able filter out certain subjects to avoid situations like this. For several reasons they disagree. Until then I cannot really enjoy our former national treasure’s news site though enjoy is not a word I’d ever really use to describe reading news.

Twitter introduced a function a while back to block certain keywords. Great! I immediately typed in two that really annoyed (and still annoy) me. It worked! But now it doesn’t actually. I still get an awful of lot of crap related to those two subjects along with untold “you missed” tweets and promoted material. This along with a crash in interaction is probably why Twitter growth has stalled to the point that many are already proclaiming its demise. Instagram stepping into scoop many of its former, largely younger users.

Controlling my information diet is every bit as important as my nutrition regimen.

You are what you eat: so don’t eat shit.

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