The News is like alcohol.
Both are drugs that give you a quick buzz but both are depressants.
Both are habit forming. Some people can do moderation but many struggle with that.
Every week I talk to intelligent people who are holding down demanding jobs and toughing it out as parents.
It’s not easy. And I haven’t met anyone in the last 5 years whose wellness / mental health was being improved by The News.
If you are a knowledge worker, your scarcest resource is headspace. If you are also a parent / husband / wife / friend, your headspace is even more limited.
Once you unplug from The Matrix, the world looks very different. You set your own priorities and you free up headspace. You see more clearly that there is hope and progress in the world.
That’s important because saving and investing for the future is an act of faith. If the world is ending, then why bother?
In the past I’ve written that No News Is Good News. That was an exaggeration of course. When I was working in corporate finance, I had to know enough current affairs to get by. But I dialled down my news intake to the amount necessary to function.
We crave new information, like we crave sugar. We evolved for an environment of scarcity and we find ourselves as hunter-gatherers plonked down in the information age where news and food are everywhere. This is why people are fat and unhappy.
Big Tech, Social Media and The News operate The Distraction Economy. The smartest people in the world figured out how to hack your psychology, curate your feed and steal ever more of your time and attention.
The News tries to make every problem in the world your problem. Civil war in Rwanda. A police shooting in Michigan. An earthquake in Haiti. What are you going to do about all that?
It is too much. We can only cope with so much misery.
2020 showed us that if you lock people in their homes for months on end, deprive them of the people they love, their basic freedoms and hook them up to The News and Social Media 24 hours a day, they go completely mental.
If your media consumption has lead you to wear Viking Horns whilst storming your government assembly, then something has gone wrong in your life. If you have made a sign swearing at a dead child, something has gone wrong in your life.
That is not activism, that is mental illness.
The News media feeds this cult-like behaviour. The media create, amplify and reinforce narratives. Ideas take hold in echo chambers. Images flash around the world in a matter of minutes, shared and forwarded. There are no cooling off periods (unless you actively restrict your screen time).
Nothing is all good or all bad. I believe in a free press. But I see it for what it is. The News Media are in the persuasion business. They have an agenda. There is no such thing as unbiased because everyone has some form of agenda. Agendas are how we decide what to spend our time and energy on.
What the Media does not cover is as important as what they do. Slow steady progress gets ignored. Stories that don’t fit their authorised narrative get buried. The media try to enforce The Overton Window.
Every action sparks a counter-reaction. There are always unintended consequences. The growth of fringe media and conspiracy theories are reactions to the Mainstream Media attempting to control The Overton Window.
If, after 2020, anyone still can’t see how the The News tries to scare and manipulate us, I’m sorry to say that they’re probably beyond help.
For the last year or so it has felt like The Public Square is broken. Online discussion is a poor substitute for face to face discussion. It’s only when discussing things face to face that you get the full range of vocal cues, body language and tonal emphasis. This is why I say it’s good to talk.
I can’t be sure exactly how much of The News is true or false. I try to focus on what I can control. All I know is that I can’t save the world, I can only help people that want my help.
I am optimistic. This too shall pass. Once people are talking to each other again in the real world, much of the tension will evaporate. Never has it been more important to go outside and a get a life.
You are under no obligation to follow The News. It is not your duty. Save yourself first. Apply own oxygen mask before helping others.
We can choose to reduce and control our intake. We can get more of our information from primary sources. We can choose to consume less second hand information spun by corporate media and Big Tech.
Forewarned is forearmed. Don’t be the frog that gets boiled in the pan.
We don’t just consume The News, eventually The News consumes us.
The Escape Manual is explained * here *