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March 27, 2017

I Mostly Quit Consuming News and I'm So Much Happier and More Productive [Warden]

Donald Trump's ascendency had the happy effect of helping me let go of any obligation to defend him as a nominee. His presidency--and the media's hysterical reaction to every single thing he says, does or tweets--has allowed me to reduce my consumption of news by at least 90% and I've never felt better.

The media culture is quite literally insane. I'm not just talking about print and television new. I mean all of it, including the stuff you and I use--Twitter, Facebook, blogs, comment sections, etc...

We've been heading in this direction for awhile. As ace has noted previously, the medium is the message. Most of today's media is clickbaiting, emotion-driven nonsense, as it must be. A medium that reduces attention span and encourages grazing across multiple tabs demands it. And somewhere along the line someone figured out that nothing drives clicks and views like outrage.

I think people have always loved running their mouths about things they know nothing about. The difference between today and before the rise of social media is that they didn't have a ready audience. You can only rant to your neighbors, coworkers and the barber so much in a given week.

Now those same louts do have an audience, and a relatively large one at that--one that rewards them for their outbursts and calls them wise, brave and inspiring. Nothing builds social capital like broadcasting the "right" opinions loudly, emotionally, and frequently.

President Trump didn't cause any of this, but he is a product of the culture and he's acted as an accelerant to the generally dysfunctional state of mass communications. It goes without saying that the press hates him unreservedly and with religious fervor.

It's also no secret that the press is filled with low-IQ, throne sniffing propagandists who are entirely incapable of earning a living through more respectable means. With their constant baiting, framing, double standards, deceptive edits and lies of both commission and omission, they have slowly but steadily lost the trust of most of their viewership. We've been watching it right here on this blog since the 2004 disgrace of Dan Rather.

But the ratcheting intensity driven by their Trump hating pathology has created something new and awful--a general feeling of paranoia, anger and fear that permeates our daily living.

And because Trump has a cunning and instinctive understanding of this circus-like atmosphere, he also adds to the confusion with his own deceit and off-the-wall behavior.

Don't get me wrong-- I find Donald Trump's smashing of DC norms to be mostly a positive development. But the man, taken as a whole and combined with underhanded maneuvering of his media antagonists has helped create an atmosphere where the truth is dream-like and elusive.

Frankly, it's exhausting to try to keep up. Every day and multiple times within is some new outrage. He gaslights them, they gaslight us. Everyone reacts without thinking at full volume and then we're on to the next thing before anything is inspected, pondered, and resolved.

I used to feel it was some sort of moral and patriotic obligation to stay on top of current affairs. No longer. I have neither the time nor the inclination to sift through miles of sewage in order to find some tiny, useful nugget of information. It's bad for my mental and spiritual health which, in turn, is bad for my family. And I value them--and myself-- far more than Being Right About Everything or whipping out some hard earned fact in order to TOTALY PWN an opponent on Twitter.

It hit me a few weeks ago that very little of what I've been consuming is real. It's like a crazy funhouse filled with distorted mirrors and spooky, upsetting sound effects. So, I thought, why enter? No one is making me and there's a perfectly good reality to enjoy elsewhere. Hadn't I spent most of my life prior to this bizarre age we're living through doing exactly that?

I took a long weekend to be with my kids over Spring Break last week and hardly even looked at the internet except to drop a post onto Ace of Spades. I threw a football with my kids at the park, took them to laser tag, cooked them breakfast and lunch every day and got some yard work done in balmy 70 degree weather.

I also spent time with my wife, played some video games, and stuck my nose in a book for a few hours each day.

It was wonderful. Peace and quiet is good for both the soul and the intellect. It gives you time to consider things deeply rather than respond primitively and by rote to information.

The less media I consume, the more time I have, allowing me to get back to being the bookworm I'd been for the first 30 or so years of my life.

It's easy to get trapped the way I was and the way many of you are. New media is sneaky. It allows you feel smart while actually making you stupid. We have more information at our disposal today than ever, but it's a mile wide and about an inch deep online or on TV. It encourages a hunter/gatherer mentality that ultimately causes you to lose your ability to deeply focus on a task. Reading reverses that process. I'm already seeing my attention span grow again.

In the last week of browsed at least parts of Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance, A Pinch of Salt by Theodore Dalyrimple and The End of Average by Todd Rose. These are four thoughtful books filled with interesting ideas by men who are far smarter and insightful than the television personalities yelling inanities at you on TV as they try to manipulate your opinion to better accommodate the world they wish for themselves.

I'm here to tell you that I'm not going back. The more I scale back my media consumption, the more centered and in touch I become with the real world. I'm done chasing illusions. The big secret of new media is that it cons you even when you know it's all a big con. Life is too short and precious to be wasted on carnival barkers and grifters.


Bonus trollish thought: If you want to drive a left wing acquaintance mad, tell him that you don't bother to watch news (even if you do) because they're all just liars.

Follow up by responding to every argument he tries to make with, "Ehhhh, buncha liars."

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posted by Open Blogger at 05:24 PM

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