This past Monday, I asked you to collect the news headlines – just the headlines – that you spent time reading/listening to/watching this week. On Wednesday, I asked you to continue, but to also add some kind of mark indicating whether each headline made you happy or sad, or whether you agreed or disagreed, or something like that. By now, you should have a list of those right in front of you. Ready to wrap up the game?
The final step: Cross out the headlines that went with articles/audio things/videos that did not result in you making a noticeable change to the way you conducted your day or week.
For example, if you read an article titled, “Mass Transit Causes Immediate Toxic Death” and decided to drive to work instead of riding the train, then leave that headline alone, because it made you change the way you conducted yourself this week. On the other hand, if you read something like, “Trump Breaks Silence on Rosanne Cancellation” and didn’t really do anything different as a result, then cross that one out.
If you’ve been honest with yourself, I’m guessing you’ve crossed almost everything out, if not absolute everything. I did.
So why do we consume this crap? I did this last week with some friends, and we all said, “to make sure we’re keeping up.” Except I’m becoming convinced that the answer is “for fear of missing out.” Remember, the fear of losing something, or missing out, is 3x stronger than the reward feeling of gaining something. We try harder not to lose stuff than we do gaining stuff. FOMO applies to news, too. Technical professionals who fell me they’ve no idea how to “keep up” with their industry’s late-breaking changes can still tell me what stupid thing their country’s head of state did that morning, even though that won’t actually change their day-to-day life in any way.
I’m not staying we should be ignorant of the news. Staying abreast of things is a part of being an educated person, and education is the best way to create a strong and progressive society. But I’m saying that our desire to stay abreast is being perverted by the news media, who in most respects aren’t interested in keeping us abreast per se, and never have been. And I’m not just talking about “Fake News” or whatever; I’m talking about all the media, even the bits you like.
Ask yourself how much time you spent reading “news” this past week and how much your actual daily life changed as a result.
Not saying I have answers, here, but it’s an interesting phenomenon to observe. I’m wondering about my own “News ROI” and how to make it better.
(Very obviously, you could have spent the week listening to podcasts relevant to your industry and learning about new trends that will in fact change your daily life. If so, bravo and tell me how you do it, because I need to do better.)