At the end of every day, I try to make a list of the things I accomplished. It helps me monitor myself and to make sure that I am producing value instead of finding activities that make me feel “busy”. On days when I felt like I was productive, but realized I accomplished very little, there was one consistent time stealing culprit: media consumption.
I used to read lots of articles. Unfortunately, they make you feel “informed”. They can give you intelligent points to make in conversation. I want to share a quote to make an ironic point and because Oscar Wilde is more articulate than me: “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
When I just read other people’s opinions, I end up feeling smarter or more informed, but I do not actually think critically. To address this problem, I am working on removing most passive media consumption from my diet.
The first type of media that I cut out is 95% of breaking news. I do not actually need to know what is happening in most fields just because it happened this morning. Prioritizing topics by “newness” instead of relevance or quality does not lead to an increase in my understanding of the world. It just makes me seem informed. Unfortunately, I am only as “informed” as the last time I read the news and thus a news addiction to sustain an image of “informed” is born. Of course, some news is important enough that it deserves attention when it comes out, however that is a small subset.
I am also trying to reduce echo chamber media. Whenever I read about a topic, I try to look for the most well reasoned counter argument. People spend too much time trying to be proven right and not enough time looking for an objective truth. Perhaps, objective truth is a luxury that I can chase because I have not built a life on certain opinions, which is largely because of my age. I hope it’s not a luxury I outgrow.
Some media invites discussion, critical thinking or addresses a topic worth exploring. My favorite thing to do is to find one or two interesting topics and read a lot about them and to make sure I understand conflicting viewpoints. Ideally, I will spend some time developing a mental or written opinion on the topic. The internet has enabled instantaneous focused research with the ability to engage in real time discussions. Unfortunately, it has also enabled mindless media consumption that appears to be informative when it is just entertainment or worse, part of a read-breaking-news-to-seem-smart addiction.
I am doing my best to cut out passive consumption and to force myself to just think critically about a few topics.