328 comments

The Low Information Diet

dbagThe big news today is that the politicians of the United States just bumbled themselves into a Government Shutdown.

Last night, a military friend of mine mentioned the impending doom to me, which is the first I had heard of the situation. Unfortunately that triggered a late night of sweaty reading on my part, catching up on the history of this predicament, cursing the bullshit and the rhetoric of the responsible members of congress, and generally being pissed off about things.  But after an uneasy sleep and a slightly groggy morning, I opened my shutters and found a clear blue sky with bright yellow sun, singing birds, and my lovely family running up to me to request hugs and breakfast. And thus, my plans for today do not include reading any more of the news.

If you’re surprised to hear that I knew nothing of the looming shutdown, and that I don’t read (or watch) the news at all, then you will get a lot from this article. Because I’m going to suggest that unless you work directly in the news media industry yourself, you too should be paying absolutely no attention to the news.

This is an unusual stance in this country, where the 24-hour news cycle has become common and 100 million office workers flop down in front of the television nightly to catch up on the day’s events. Political dramas, stock markets fluctuations, sports, local tragedies, weather, and of course an update on what is new in bikinis and celebrity gossip.


“As a citizen, it’s my duty to stay informed”,
one news watcher might say, while another quips,
“I gotta keep with up with my Packers, they got a real chance this year!”

“The markets are on a rollercoaster this year”,
Joe Trader might add,
“I need to be on the watch so I know when to sell!”

“It is all Bullshit”, is what Mr. Money Mustache says, “You need to get the News out of your life, right away, and for life.”

The reasons for this are plentiful, from the inherently sucky nature of news programming itself, to the spectacular life benefits of adopting a Low Information Diet in general. But let’s start with the news.

News programs are, with the exception of a few non-profit or publicly funded ones, commercial enterprises designed to turn and maximize profit. Many of them are owned by larger shareholder-owned corporations, most notably Rupert Murdoch’s News corp. The profit comes from advertising, and advertising revenue is maximized by pulling the largest audience, holding their attention for the longest possible time, and putting them into the mental state most conducive to purchasing the products of the advertisers (which turns out to be helplessness and vulnerability).

This is why the news always starts out with a sensationalist take on a topic of at least plausible national interest, takes a detour into truly horrific and depressing irrelevant tragedies (“Chinese boy’s eyes gouged out with spoon and left in field by unknown woman” is one that unfortunately crossed my screen when doing research for this article), then ends on an uplifting note with something like a defiant entrepreneur or a caring soup kitchen. An emotional roller-coaster ride every day of the week.

Now comes the interesting part. The “largest possible audience” is by definition biased towards the people who watch television the most. These are the struggling masses, the people with debt problems, the folks likely to bring a 3-year-old SUV down to the GMC dealer and trade it in for an even newer loan document. They are not comprised of 65% engineers, technology and finance workers, doctors, lawyers, and teachers like the readers of this blog. While news programming is an awful diet for their brains, it’s even worse for yours.

The news also completely fucks up the layperson’s perception of risk. The very fact that bad events are rare these days, makes them newsworthy. A bicyclist hit by a car. A school shooting or an abduction. A terrorist attack. These things are so uncommon, it is best to ignore the possibility of them when planning your own life. But with a sample size of over 300 million people in the US and 7 billion worldwide, unusual tragedies happen daily, and they end up on the news nightly.

Because of this phenomenon, I got almost 50 concerned emails about the recent Colorado floods.
“Is your family OK out there in Longmont? We are terrified for you!”
I was touched by the thought, but also tempted to write back,
“Are YOU OK? You seem to have been watching the news, which is much more dangerous than living in Colorado during this 500-year flood!”

The news focused on the damage: ripped out roads and flooded suburbs. The numbers tell a different story: less than 1% of homes damaged or destroyed, and a death toll of 8. About the same number of people die in the state’s car crashes every week, and staggering property damage is caused in the state’s almost-2000 car crashes per week. If the news were delivered on a basis of logic rather than sensationalism, it would proclaim “250 more car crashes today! Families mourn injuries and death, and yet pointless commuting and Car-Clown driving remains unchecked!”

While we can do nothing to prevent the freak rainstorms that cause floods*, we can certainly reduce the unnecessary driving that kills and impoverishes us all. And thus, wouldn’t reducing driving be a much more practical focus, if the news were really a program designed to help society?

All of which brings us nicely to the real point of this article: it’s not just the news that is the enemy. It’s all forms of irrelevant information**.

 As an unusually intelligent person on a quest to create the best life for yourself and your fellow humans, you have a big task ahead of you, and you’ll need all your brainpower to do it. And yet your intelligence, your time, and your attention span are all finite. So why would you ever squander it on anything that doesn’t help you advance your goals? You need to be ruthless in your quest for a cleaner and more powerful mind, and the better you do at this, the more you will prosper. Let’s look at a few examples from everyday life:

Meetings at Work: back in my corporate days, I used to sit in meeting rooms with up to 15 other people, with a conference telephone on the table squawking out the chatter of an additional 15 people who had dialed in from the San Jose office. Pointy-haired managers would quiz people on the minutiae of their individual status reports while the rest of us tried to hide the fact that we were falling asleep. Every mind in the meeting was becoming less focused, less productive, and less happy, due to the flood of completely irrelevant information. Meetings should be as short, focused, and small as possible. It is far better for a knowledge worker to miss some “key” information, than to end up flooded with too much.

Micromanagement: One of the less competent managers at work used to try to read every single software and hardware design specification produced by the entire 50-person department. “As a manager, I need to stay on top of the design details”, he told me. But he had it all backwards: because of this habit, he slowed down every meeting by second-guessing every design decision of every software engineer – most of whom were much more skilled than he. Let the smart people work at their own higher level while you focus on giving them what they need to do their jobs.

Email: As I write this, there are no email programs in sight. My phone’s mail application (and indeed every app on the phone) is permanently set to “no notifications”. Every email is a potential wormhole of distraction and mental fatigue. This is fun if you have nothing to do, but disastrous for people like you who are working on improving your life. So keep your email sessions defined, short, and focused, then completely close that Gmail tab (and erase the bookmark) so that logging in is a deliberate affair.

Facebook: Oh man.. don’t even get me started on Facebook. It’s like the news, but at a local level focused on the latest parenting problems, bowel movements, consumer indulgences, and forwarding of pointless memes and Youtube videos. From this point forward you may sign in to Facebook at most once per week. Make a grand appearance, read the updates from your best friends, drop a few compliments and jokes, then get the hell back out. Delete the app from your smartphone, change your password to a 12-digit alphanumeric string you have to look up on paper, and then log out from the web browser. Ahhhh.

I often tell people that the biggest benefit to early retirement has been “getting my own mind back”. Without the demands of 8 hours of software design every day, I’ve been amazed at the fun things I have had the energy to learn in these past 8 years. But a job really only takes about 50% of your mind. The other half is generally burned by email, television, Facebook, Reddit, video games, researching potential products and other unnecessary things. If you can eliminate these, you’re halfway to retirement already.

With this 50% downpayment on the most powerful asset of a free mind, you can then start getting other things done. You’ll be able to better organize your time, get a better job, learn skills, learn about happiness itself, get in shape, be less exhausted, and much more.

And so begins your real life – which will proceed nicely whether the government is currently shut down or not. Congratulations!

 

Addendum: Wow, this post is much more controversial than I expected and I’m taking some heat in the comments. I think most of the complaints come from the mistaken impression that I am promoting ignorance rather than efficiency. Following the daily news with the death tolls and pointless squabbles is very different from seeking to understand human society and world politics in general. And when you skip the sugar and carbs of the daily stuff, you free your mind up to accomplish much more than you otherwise would. As just one example, this blog has reached over four million people and 40 million page views, promoting the idea of lower consumption for the rich world. And I still cast my votes in every election and send the odd letter to a senator. Is this a higher or lower impact than me spending that time being “well-informed” watching or reading the daily news? Regardless of your goals, you will notice exactly the same effect: If you don’t think you can be a better citizen without daily or even weekly news, just do yourself a favor and try it for one week.

Also, the title for this post was shamelessly copied from a chapter in Tim Ferriss’ useful book The Four Hour Workweek.

 

* Although if you really think about it, reducing driving actually could reduce the incidence of floods, due to the effect of driving on climate change, and the effect of a warmer planet on the amount of atmospheric moisture and thus the intensity of storms.

** I should mention that while the news is a useless way to learn about the world, learning about the world itself is very useful. But this is best done by reading books – and maybe the odd scientific blog or journal or other periodical.  I do still read most of the Economist every week or two, for example. The facts about the world don’t change on a daily basis, so by focusing on these slower and more well-researched sources of information, you filter out the noise and end up with the stuff that’s really worth learning.

  • Emily A October 1, 2013, 11:59 am

    Love it. Another winner from MMM. I look forward to getting my own mind back one day.

    Reply
    • FreeRangeAnt October 2, 2013, 4:45 pm

      Great post. I have not had a TV for 7 years now. I used to wake up and put the news on. get home from work and put the news on. watch mindless drivel all night then watch the news before bed! The media is just there to control you and to keep you in a state of fear. When the population is in a constant state of fear then it is very easy to take away civil liberties with the pre-tense that you are protecting the population. We lose our liberties and are greatfull ! madness. MMM is spot on. Give your TV to the local mental hospital and wake up to living your own life not in constant fear of things totally out of your control and in a lot of cases completely made up! Dont even get me started on company meetings aarrgghh! its all so crazy. love this blog x

      Reply
    • Aimee@MiddleFingerProject October 5, 2013, 12:38 pm

      I cannot tell you how much your post resonates with me. I have always kept up with the news for as long as I can remember, but not because I particularly enjoyed it, rather because I felt I had to – that it was my responsibility. So when I decided to give up watching the news (which in the UK is slightly different because we actually have an impartial -ish news channel – BBC News 24) I thought I would suddenly be looked down upon by friends and colleagues – but you know what – it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference! The really important stuff I read up on via independent (ish) online newspapers but the rest of it – well I just didn’t have to think about it anymore. And I am so much happier because of it, the sad stories all day and night used to get me down and make me think I lived in a really horrible place, but now I notice the good much, much more often.

      Of course I think we should all keep abreast of the important stuff (however you define that!?) but I think we folks here – on the whole – have our heads screwed on the right way – so stopping watching the news is not going to suddenly make us ignorant.

      Reply
  • Justin @ RootofGood October 1, 2013, 12:08 pm

    This post echos my thoughts exactly. This morning I realized I forgot to check whether the government shut down. Oddly enough I managed to make a cup of coffee, walk the kids to school, change a diaper, and eat breakfast without knowing that critical news. Once I found out the government did, in fact, poop out a big zero and fail to continue operating, I did post to facebook to mock the fact that the government shutdown meant nothing to my day to day life. Life goes on!

    Reply
    • Miss Growing Green October 1, 2013, 12:25 pm

      Haha, great story! I’m proud? to admit that I had no idea about the government shutdown until reading MMMs blog post. Happy because my life continued as normal, without any hiccups, and happy because my source for news is apparently MMM :)

      Reply
    • MoneyAhoy October 1, 2013, 1:19 pm

      Justin,

      I was in the same boat as you. It didn’t even occur to me to check until someone mentioned it. Meh is all I thought. We have no control over it, so why even waste time thinking or talking about it?!?

      Reply
      • Terese October 1, 2013, 4:26 pm

        Must be nice. This affects some of us very, very deeply. Especially with goals to retire early, the potential to miss a few paychecks cuts deep. I agree we can’t do anything about it, but yes, we did need to be informed about it. Plus, my husband’s bosses essentially said “watch the news to learn when you can come back.” There is no other communication set up for gov’t workers to learn when they go back to work.

        I love the MMM community and I think most folks here are some of the smartest I’ve seen on the internet. And in general, my husband and I don’t watch the news (we don’t have internet or TV at home to get news), but I think it might be shortsighted to say that the current news is never relevant to us. There’s a time and a place. And in this case, it affects our ‘stache, among other things.

        Reply
        • Samurailil October 2, 2013, 8:44 am

          Check opm.gov for status. Snow storm – opm; Pay – opm; Delay – opm. That’s what I checked this morning. I rarely watch tv. Too much to do!

          Reply
          • amp October 2, 2013, 2:24 pm

            BTW – 80% of federal government employees are working and getting paid during this “shutdown”. I’m one of the 20% not working, but I’m enjoying the hell out of it as we have great weather in DC right now. ;-)

            Reply
          • Allen Monroe October 2, 2013, 2:31 pm

            I thought you were joking with OPM.gov (I assumed it was Other People’s Money) but I checked it out and it’s really a thing. What an unfortunate name.

            Reply
            • Emmers October 7, 2013, 8:11 pm

              …Office of Personnel Management?

              Reply
        • MoneyAhoy October 2, 2013, 2:50 pm

          Terese,

          My comments were made in no way to marginalize any government workers. I am truly sorry if I offended you – that was not my intent.

          That’s pretty strange to hear that the government’s method of communication to tell folks to come back to work is “watch the news”. I would have thought there would be something a little more official…

          I think much of the news can be relevant to folks, I think MMMs point is not to get so wrapped up in the news and what’s happening that you lose sight of the more important things in life. As you point out, if something will DIRECTLY impact you, then it is highly relevant to you personally to stay informed.

          Reply
          • Emily S. October 4, 2013, 11:17 am

            I think the issue is that the people who would normally email these things out to let you know if you’re in or not are not permitted to work (as they are deemed ‘non-essential.’). At least that was how my friend who is not working explained it to me. Her and her fellow colleagues were instructed to go to a specific website every night to see if they were deemed essential the next day. Not saying that it makes sense, but that is how things are working at the moment :).

            Reply
      • Justin @ RootofGood October 2, 2013, 7:28 pm

        We were having lunch today in a restaurant and the news channel was blaring. Apparently the new, never been done before Obamacare web exchanges have had a couple hiccups for some users. Wait for a few days and try again (you have 2 more months to sign up).

        But no, it was like a category 5 hurricane was slamming into everyone’s wallet and ripping money out. They ran a 10 minute special on healthcare exchange problems and OMGz how bad it was on the first day (when millions of people are loading the servers).

        In a few days or a week, it will be some other ever so important cause of the day generating filler space for tv news broadcasts so they don’t have dead air in between the commercials.

        Reply
  • Lucas October 1, 2013, 12:08 pm

    One of the best MMM posts to date! Not much to add, but that I agree whole heartedly, and that I am glad to have someone else to point to when I have to explain why not having a facebook account is helping me enjoy my life far more than having one :-)!!

    Reply
  • Tara October 1, 2013, 12:09 pm

    This has been a major focus for me over the past few months: reducing the amount of useless input into my brain. I watch almost no TV (and especially not TV news reporting), look at news web sites only a couple of times a week to scan the headlines, and focus on reading books that are truly pleasurable and/or informative. I am obligated at work to spend 8 hours a day on email and IM, so when I go home at night and on the weekends, I leave my smartphone in the bottom of my purse and ignore it. I read a few blogs (such as this one) a couple of times a week as well. The rest of the time I try to be present in my life to enjoy nature and my family without generating useless worry over world/work events. It requires constant vigilance unfortunately, it is so easy to get sucked into the useless information cycle.

    Reply
  • EL October 1, 2013, 12:11 pm

    I agree most apps and notifications are a complete waste of time. The news, I never watch compared to my co-workers who greet you in the morning with the latest updates. I am still working on getting my mind back which is on loan by my current employer. How did you coup in those 9 years in the work force with your desire to be free?

    Reply
  • Marcel Grünauer October 1, 2013, 12:11 pm

    Reply
    • René Ostenfeld October 3, 2013, 2:57 am

      Thanks for the link to this very important essay. In my country we have a state backed media organization that is paid by taxes. There should be no reason for this media organization to act as the commercial ones – but guess what? They look almost like the commercial ones – only better by a small margin. No commercials and slightly better children’s programs. But the news programs and so called entertaining programs are as bad as the commercial ones. Why does the media people insist on doing such a lousy job ? Why do people keep consuming them ? Are the average person really that bad at thinking for themselves ?

      Reply
    • kevin October 5, 2013, 5:39 am

      I read that article a year or so ago and tried to go news free for 6 months. The first 3 weeks were really tough as I found myself being compulsively drawn to get my fix of news. After about a month, I found less and less need to check the news.

      I was able to go 6 months before I caved and went back to reading the news.

      Reply
  • alicia October 1, 2013, 12:11 pm

    The fact that you knew NOTHING about this current government shutdown/disaster is very, very telling. How very smug you are. I wonder how smug you might be if your child hugged you this morning, asked what was for breakfast and you had nothing to feed him? Think bad things can’t happen to
    you? Think again.

    Don’t worry. Your day will indeed come. And then we will see how your smugness will continue.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 1, 2013, 12:14 pm

      No.. I’d say the nature of YOUR comment is a bit more telling.

      Thank you very much for an illustration more vivid than anything I could fit into the 1600 words of this article!

      Your habit of watching the news seems to have given you a very frightened and distorted perspective on the nature of the economic system of the United States, while my habit of reading books instead has ensured that I will always be able to afford my groceries.

      Reply
      • John Ratchford October 1, 2013, 2:35 pm

        I understand a low-information diet, but if you take it too far you become an isolationist. You do have some obligation to your family, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens to participate in society.

        Elections have consequences, and disasters need people to help in time of need. If you’re not informed you either make no decisions or potentially bad ones based on a lack of knowledge.

        Reply
        • Louis October 1, 2013, 7:05 pm

          John, elections, if you choose to participate, take about 10-20 minutes of research per election MAX. The idea that you need to subject yourself and your family to 1.5 years of debate and nightly cable news (or even NPR news) in order to choose for whom to vote is ridiculous. Even if you chose to be active in a campaign and try to swing the vote, that would not require any news-watching at all.

          If you want to vote, read about the issue positions the night before, or over coffee that morning, and go out and vote.

          Reply
        • Anonymous October 1, 2013, 8:08 pm

          This is incredibly true.

          Stop and think for a bit: how many rational decisions have you made in the last year that depended in any way on the broader state of the world, outside your chosen profession?

          For 99.9% of people, the answer is “none”, and the answer to “how many irrational decisions” is likely “more than one” (see the various articles on this blog about making fear-based decisions rather than rational ones).

          No, you have no “duty” to stay informed about activities in the world that do not affect you or anyone you personally know and care about. Your civic duty begins and ends with the money you lose out of every paycheck for which you supposedly receive commensurate value. (In practice: more than zero value, far less than 100% value; no matter your choice of politics, it’s safe to say that percentage is greater than zero and far far less than 100.) Beyond that, go vote based on whether you’d like that number to go up or down and whether you believe you could derive more value from it somehow, and you’re now more responsible than most. And your duty to the community is far better served by getting to know your neighbors and interacting with your local community, rather than the vast majority of news that will never affect you.

          If you want to read news, read (not watch) news that affects you or your profession: announcements of new advancements in your field, projects, people, companies, and other things that you’ll actually interact with. That really does help you keep well-informed about the world in ways that help you make rational decisions, such as the technology to use in your next software project, or the treatments available for your next patient, or the architectural trend you’ll use for your next building, or the seasoning you’ll put on your next meal.

          Drop the news, drop the panic, drop the irrational belief that you can or should do something about every catastrophe that befalls the world. If you want to make a difference in the broader world, donate to the most efficient charity you can, and work to be the best you can possibly be in your chosen profession and change the world that way. You’ll be better off, you’ll live a longer and less stressful life, you’ll help yourself become more rational by removing one of the biggest sources of biased information in your reasoning (vivid anecdotal stories of by-definition low-probability events), your friends and family will be better off, and the world will be better off.

          Reply
        • phred October 2, 2013, 8:38 am

          Obligations? Thus speaks a true slave. As to his family: he feeds them, houses them (quite well, in fact) and teaches them how not to be spendthrifts. In fact, they are probably more like the real Americans of yore than anyone else.
          As to society at large, he builds or remodels affordable houses, stays off welfare, lends money & invests so others can create, and teaches us all via Mr. Money Mustache.
          His training as an engineer probably helps him make very good decisions

          Reply
        • att October 2, 2013, 8:47 am

          What part of sensationalistic news benefits society or community or family? I would go so far as to say all news on TV and newspaper is slanted to present a certain agenda. Most people are unaware of that agenda and just accept it based on the fact that it is “on tv” or “in the paper”.

          Reply
        • Sonofczar October 4, 2013, 10:33 am

          You are wrong. If I want to live off the grid in the bush and never talk to another person again, that is my choice. Nobody is making me care about anyone else. It is this opinion that causes consumerism, because you feel it is your duty to support the economy because you don’t want your neighbour who works in some factory making crap people don’t need to be out of work. The news isn’t necessary as charity begins at home, and if there is a disaster in your community, or even in your home city/state, your communication network with other people will let you know about it and you can respond and help if you like. This is how things worked before the media was around. No media news required. If you think watching the news makes you informed, you need to realize that only 10% of it is fact.

          Reply
      • J70 October 1, 2013, 3:39 pm

        Hehe, this is funny. She doesn’t understand that anything she learns from watching CNN/Fox News will be useless in a world after “your day [has] come”.

        As you said, reading books (perhaps on growing your own food?) is much more useful in the aftermath of the “sky is falling” scenario mainstream media sells to us.

        Reply
      • Hilo October 3, 2013, 7:54 am

        I’ve read the blog for awhile but this is my first time commenting. While I mostly agree with you about news overload, what I believe Alice was trying to convey, but not very well, is that the government shutdown DOES affect some food programs and this WILL affect how some children are fed. This may affect her personally, I don’t know. The point being, just because something doesn’t affect one person does not diminish the effect on another. And I don’t feel they should be belittled for that (i.e. reading through some of the comments posted about Alice). If Alice is, or is not, on some type of assistance, the fact that she is on this blog is telling and that she may be trying to improve herself. People can be on assistance for many reasons-disabled, lazy, or just having a tough time at the moment. For many of us who don’t notice the government shutdown, many others feel it very strongly. Just like flooding in one area doesn’t affect 99.9% of us, for those 0.1% it is effecting, it means everything.

        All in all in agree with you though. News overload, bad news overload, is never good.

        Reply
      • Joshua Spodek October 3, 2013, 9:16 am

        For a similar perspective on finding out how news doesn’t help and why — http://joshuaspodek.com/model-manipulated-media.

        A snippet from that post (highlighting how addicted people get to news):

        ——————————-

        I had to try this belief out to get it. Some book suggested not following the news for thirty days. The suggestion almost shocked me. How could a responsible citizen not follow the news? I should know the important things happening in the world.

        But I tried anyway. I know I tried it in the spring of 2008 because of how powerfully the effect hit me. When I stopped following the news daily the main stories were about the race between Obama and Clinton, specifically who carried which states. A month later when I restarted following the news, the names of the states changed, but the stories were the same.

        The candidates policies hadn’t changed. Nothing important changed. But the media presented it like huge things were happening. They want to create controversy and drama. I realized that the media always had that motivation to keep you hooked. I had long known it, but it hit me more when I saw how little the stories changed amid their claims of huge, breaking news.

        And I don’t mean just the politicized, polarized cable channels. All news.

        But that wasn’t my biggest awakening. That came when I went to a friend’s party with a bunch of politically aware people. I mentioned my experiment and how surprised I was at the results, expecting them to find the story interesting.

        Their response surprised me.

        They not only didn’t care about my experience, they couldn’t fathom someone would consider not following the news daily. They just about accused me of being irresponsible as a citizen. Needless to say, they didn’t care to hear my experiences and conclusion.

        In other words, they sounded addicted. I was convinced. The media wants to addict you to the media.

        Yes, I consider knowing some things about the world important, but I recognize the media will polarize and dramatize things to hook people. They will cover things that evoke outrage, shock, horror, and such over mundane things. Is shocking more important than mundane? It’s not obvious to me that covering a school shooting is more important than covering students getting straight As.

        Besides, with seven billion people in the world, anything you learn about some you’re not learning about others. You can never learn everything about the world. You mostly learn the most gripping things, which we’ve come to consider the most important, but you don’t have to agree on someone else’s evaluation of importance.

        Which is more important, war or peace? Which gets more news coverage? Which makes the history books?

        Reply
      • Sean October 4, 2013, 10:15 am

        This reminds me of a part from a Michael Crighton novel ” State of Fear”. The Political-Legal-Media complex, PLM it profits and sustains itself by keeping consumers of the PLM in a perpetual “State of Fear”,

        “…In the old days, citizens of the West believed their nation-states were dominated by something called the military-industrial complex… for the last fifteen years we have been under the control of an entirely new complex, far more powerful and far more pervasive. I call it the politico-legal-media complex. The PLM. And it is dedicated to promoting fear in the population – under the guise of promoting safety…”

        quoted from a website quoting the book
        http://www.msfsolutions.com/pub_State_of_Fear_0611_DB.html

        Reply
    • tBone October 1, 2013, 12:46 pm

      Mere hunger would not stop the child of MMM. He is so badass that he would extract fish from a local stream with his bare hands, clean them with a knife he forged at age two, and cook them over a fire he ignited by rubbing his hands together.

      Thanks for stopping by and spreading the good word tho.

      Reply
      • Bobby October 2, 2013, 8:13 am

        not sure if serious?

        Reply
        • tBone October 3, 2013, 10:51 am

          I was really just trying to lighten the mood after the Complainypants Fairy paid us an early visit.

          It’s silly to think I was serious about him lighting a fire by rubbing his hands together. That’s way too inefficient. He’d probably use his laser beam eyes.

          Reply
      • Emily A October 2, 2013, 11:12 am

        Haha that’s glorious!

        Reply
    • C. Lee October 1, 2013, 1:30 pm

      My lands, that is a lot of words to say you don’t care for MMM’s style and would like to see him suffer. Unfortunately, that’s not really of interest to anyone, let alone an argument. Perhaps next time you could comment on the ideas expressed, provide alternative reasoning, take issue with the evidence presented, etc. Of course those kinds of habits are destructive to the complainypants mentality and we wouldn’t want to give you a crisis of identity.

      Reply
    • Christine October 1, 2013, 2:06 pm

      What the hec!?! What does watching the news have to do with feeding his child! And just because you’re watching bad things happen in the world.. doesn’t mean you’re doing anyone any good… you’re just watching bad things happening to people…

      Reply
      • Mike October 3, 2013, 8:47 am

        Maybe we should consider the possibility that the commenter is a furloughed government employee and is coming from a place of extreme emotion, lashing out at at what she sees as a lighthearted treatment of her plight. Many of the people sent home during the shutdown are the same people who saw their incomes reduced during the sequester, so potentially a LOT of government employees are in a very bad way right now.

        Or, we could all pile on and start kicking.

        Reply
        • Susan Hall October 8, 2013, 10:28 am

          I am one of the ‘essential’ federal employees working without pay. Many of my coworkers didn’t see this coming because Congress has cried wolf dozens of times averting a shutdown at five minutes until midnight on the day the budget or raise in the debt ceiling was due. We will almost certainly not receive a paycheck (even though we are REQUIRED to work) on payday October 14th. Whether we will miss two or more paychecks depends upon whether or not Congress passes a budget.

          Reply
    • Heath October 1, 2013, 3:25 pm

      That comment is the most perfect opportunity for Dramatic Gopher that I’ve ever seen! Re-read it, and then watch THIS :-)

      http://youtu.be/8lXdyD2Yzls

      BEGIN IRONY
      Next on Dumb News: Being financially independent with an incredible life, MIGHT make you sound like a ‘smug asshat’ to the terminally afraid sheeples.
      STAY TUNED! :-P
      END IRONY

      PS: The word ‘sheeple’ is goofy, and these two comics are horribly relevant:
      http://xkcd.com/610/
      http://xkcd.com/1013/

      Reply
    • systematic October 3, 2013, 12:16 am

      As someone who has lived through a natural disaster. if you ever need information regarding water, sewer and a road out, ignore the media.

      Reply
  • Brandon Curtis October 1, 2013, 12:14 pm

    Timothy Ferriss talks about the value of a Low-Information Diet in his books (Four-Hour Work Week, et al).

    You might be able to tie this concept back into Buddhist and Stoic philosophies, which teach that over-attachment to an uncontrollable world is the cause of most of our sufferings.

    Reply
    • Stephen October 1, 2013, 1:35 pm

      I’ve been practicing the low information diet after I read 4HWW a few years ago. I am still amazed, even after several years, I don’t miss any of it. I think MMM does an even better job of tying all the sensitization of news to how it actually applied to our lives (it doesn’t).

      The issues I have is dealing with people who seem to be on the exact opposite path and who are consumed with fear and dread because of their nightly (and morning) fix of junk news! I think low info is one of the most underrated aspects of MMM.

      Reply
    • Mrs. PoP October 1, 2013, 5:39 pm

      I was listening to the audiobook of Andrew Weil’s Spontaneous Happiness while biking on the way to work this morning, and one of his recommendations was to take a news/email fast. Start at one day per week, and work up to 8 days consecutively as a way of clearing the mind and refocusing as a way to find greater happiness.

      Reply
      • dave October 4, 2013, 11:25 am

        I was just thinking of Weill and the “news fast” when I read this!

        Reply
    • Ann Stanley October 1, 2013, 6:49 pm

      I agree, Brandon. Malcolm Gladwell points out that we are not psychologically equipped to cope with communities that are much bigger than a village anyway. So if we want to be helpful in the world we’d be wise to be helpful in small local ways that we can ‘control’ to some extent, or at least see the effect of.

      Reply
  • Justin October 1, 2013, 12:17 pm

    My wife and I have been cable free for 3 years. Best decision we have ever made. We have loads more time for playing with our kids, dog, and the long lost art of CONVERSATION has flourished in the absense of cable. The added bonus is the ~$2,160 we have saved in the last 3 years.

    As usual, great article by MMM.

    Reply
    • Holly October 2, 2013, 12:47 pm

      Same here….and I don’t miss cable at all, especially cable news. It’s mostly fear-mongering and propaganda anyways with little tidbits of real news shared here and there.

      I also did not know about the government shutdown until yesterday when people started mentioning it on Facebook. But, even if I had known, what difference would it have made?

      Reply
      • Nate McStash October 2, 2013, 2:04 pm

        Just to jump on your post here, I would advise a socially conscious person to join groups that give you regular updates on issues that you care about. For example, I am a member of the Georgia Environmental Action Network which sends me email updates whenever a big issue has come up in the state legislature. These organizations are very powerful and are a much better source of news that actually affects you.

        Obviously these organizations can be hard to find, but over time you will run across them!

        Reply
  • Katie October 1, 2013, 12:17 pm

    Loved this post! I don`t have a tv and therefore never watch the news. It amazes me how many people do watch it, and seem very concerned for me when I tell them I don`t (not to mention the reactions I get when I mention I don’t have a tv, or a Facebook…) it all seems to be very tied to the “fearof missing out”, although I think anything that is really worth me knowing about someone will tell me.

    Reply
  • Miss Growing Green October 1, 2013, 12:20 pm

    Interesting perspective! One I’ll probably have to let marinate to get the full effect of… I’ve never really thought about the news to that extent. I myself don’t watch it, for all the reasons you mentioned above, but I never really analyzed it as deeply as you did *shame on me*.

    One thing to add though- don’t you think there is validity to informing yourself to some extent? While I don’t watch the news, I do keep up with world events, especially environmental ones (from internet resources I trust, that cut right to the chase). After all, we can’t live in a bubble *and* claim to be open-minded, forward-thinking, responsible citizens, can we?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 1, 2013, 12:26 pm

      Ahh, thanks for pointing that out! I had meant to point out the value of BOOKS as the real way to stay informed on relevant stuff. Added some stars and a footnote about that.

      Reply
      • David G. October 1, 2013, 9:01 pm

        Do you feel the same way about reading a newspaper? I do feel that there is great value in knowing about world events, even if I have no direct influence on them and they have no direct impact upon me. I’m afraid that if we all just focus on what is in front of our eyes, we will become much less interesting human beings.

        Reply
        • att October 2, 2013, 8:52 am

          Feel free to read the newspaper, but keep it mind it was written by people with an agenda to present. Have you ever read an article about a topic on which you are an expert (or semi-expert?) You will find the article is riddled with errors and half-truths. There is only so much information you can expect with the crappy reports that pass for journalism nowadays.

          Reply
          • Sonofczar October 4, 2013, 10:48 am

            The newspaper is the same business as TV news, and as such is just another commercial enterprise. Working in the justice field, I know that 100% of articles written on crime that I’ve been involved with are inaccurate, most often drastically.

            Reply
      • Bill October 14, 2013, 10:57 am

        MMM, what do you recommend reading? Which books specifically?

        Reply
    • Mary Ellen October 1, 2013, 12:43 pm

      I agree that the low information diet is valuable to a point, but you are right that we do have a duty to be informed. Fortunately, we all have access to a high quality, profit-free news source for actually meaningful local and national news: NPR! Skip the talking heads on tv by all means, but listening to NPR a few minutes or more every day while doing other productive things lets me be informed about politics, and frequently leads to interesting conversations.

      Reply
      • Ross October 1, 2013, 4:01 pm

        I feel like everyone should be required to listen to NPR a few times just so they know what news should be like. I feel like NPR, along with credible internet resources and the library would go a long way towards making our electorate more informed and effective. That’s the sort of information diet that would be the most beneficial to the most people.

        Reply
        • Susan Hamby October 2, 2013, 7:15 am

          Indeed, one study showed NPR listeners are better informed than people who get their news from other outlets. Can you guess whose listeners are least informed?
          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/23/fox-news-less-informed-new-study_n_1538914.html

          My husband and I gave up news years ago. We are much happier for it and still able to keep up with important information quite easily.

          Reply
        • amp October 2, 2013, 2:30 pm

          NPR is just as biased as any other new source out there. Hard to be objective about our government when your paycheck and very nice building on North Capitol street, about a mile from Congress, depend on it’s funding.

          Reply
      • PawPrint October 1, 2013, 4:34 pm

        I don’t know about this. I always call NPR news “Bad News From Around the World,” and, frankly, turn it off.

        Reply
      • Louis October 1, 2013, 7:10 pm

        NPR is not OK. NPR is still a high-information diet. I stopped listening to NPR a few months ago and haven’t looked back. If you want information, read books or the newspaper every now and then. Most of the things on NPR simply do not apply to you, and there are better, more efficient ways to learn about the things that do.

        Reply
        • Jack October 2, 2013, 1:15 pm

          Louis,

          I couldn’t agree with you more. I used to listen to NPR on a daily basis both driving to and from work (I know, I know…driving…I’m riding once a week now with plans to go to twice a week) as well as when I woke up in the morning. I finally had an epiphany (pre-MMM blog reading) that NPR was making my entire world outlook more pessimistic and that I was putting things into my brain that had no positive application to my life. I haven’t listened to NPR for over 6 months and do not miss it at all, the attitude and outlook on life has improved and I have more time for thinking about the things that I can influence and that actually matter to me. I would encourage this low information diet to anyone that is currently consuming what they are producing (regardless of the political spectrum the producer represents).

          Reply
        • durangostash94 October 2, 2013, 4:34 pm

          I have, also, recently given up NPR, especially Morning Edition. To me, it was becoming fairly silly at times. They seemed to also have a lot of stories about all the technology gadgets and apps that “everyone” has these days. I accidentally streamed All Things Considered for a minute a couple of days ago, and the story they were introducing was about “phantom vibrations” of cell phones. Really?? Is this really crucial information that we all need to know about? I switched it off right away.

          I like the BBC World Service a lot better. I also listen to Harry Shearer’s Le Show every week (via his website)–that guy is crazy and brilliant.

          No TV in my home. So peaceful.

          Reply
      • SH October 3, 2013, 9:16 pm

        Actually C-Span is a fairly good medium for unfiltered information. It’s sort of the antithesis of the histrionics and taken-out-of-context snippets we get from the CNN/MSNBC/Fox News triumvirate.

        NPR has a bit more depth to it, but their bias comes through in the content they emphasize, which clearly aligns with the left side of the political spectrum.

        Reply
  • Brian1975 October 1, 2013, 12:21 pm

    Posted your article on Facebook then logged off and deleted the app from my phone. Gonna go a week without checking, been thinking about trying this for a time. Thanks for echoing my thoughts. Government shut down big whoop let’s show them how much we need them.

    Reply
    • Analog Kid October 6, 2013, 1:10 pm

      I deleted the Facebook app from my phone and iPad two weeks ago, and I’ve already saved countless hours. Even if I checked them during what I considered to be “idle” time, somehow it expanded the length of such by quite a bit. Now to acquire the discipline to check email only once a day, and eventually maybe once or twice a week.

      Reply
  • Sarah October 1, 2013, 12:22 pm

    Great article! As a furloughed federal worker I decided to use my first day to pull the bike out of the basement and test out the 4.25 mile route to the subway. It was much easier and not as scary as I thought (yes, I just had read an article about a cyclist being hit by a car). Maybe I will try it again tomorrow as it looks like I will have tomorrow free too…

    Reply
    • veganbetty October 1, 2013, 12:34 pm

      Haha, great attitude Sarah!

      Reply
    • Tallgirl1204 October 1, 2013, 10:28 pm

      Thanks, Sarah. I’m furloughed too, and I have to admit that I have been sucked into the news cycle maw over the last few days– the effect on my community is huge, as many many small businesses depend on the national park I work for. Not to mention the park visitors who are being turned away from long-planned vacations. My coworkers and I spent many hours preparing for a shutdown that we continued to hope wouldn’t happen (just like the others that didn’t– not since 1995), and it was hard not to obsess over the news along with the small business owners who called me begging not to let the park close.

      Once it happened, I came home and made a list of all the things I could do that don’t cost money for the duration, as well as thought about the ways I can improve savings. (if this thing goes on for less than two months I don’t have to touch any investments or credit). And I found that I had no desire to look at the news.

      I figure 10 minutes of NPR a day will tell me when it is time to go back to work, and anything else just makes me mad. It’s bad enough to see my friends out of work (not just government employees, but a lot of seasonal service workers, restaurant suppliers, and tour guides, etc.) listening to the talking heads just makes it worse.

      So my plan is also to get the bike out, get to the gym every day, get the house sparkling, and do some canning of all the abundant free food that is available from the gardens and orchards this year!

      Lastly, for the folks who say that it doesn’t matter if the government shuts down, be careful how and where you say that. It’s not just the government goobs who are affected, there are ripples all the way out. In small towns near national parks, nearly every family is affected. And some of us work hard for the benefit of everyone who likes national parks– I know you don’t mean it that way, but it’s hard not to take it personally when people are glad that I’m not able to do my job.

      Reply
      • dude October 2, 2013, 6:30 am

        I feel you, tallgirl — I’m a Fed who happens to be excepted from the shutdown furloughs. While I tend to avoid most news, I had been paying some attention to the news regarding the then-imminent shutdown. People with discerning minds able to separate the wheat from the chaff can probably profit somewhat from occasionally tuning in. The federal government, whatever your opinion of it, affects all of us in myriad ways, some of which can have serious effects on our pocketbooks. From a purely selfish perspective, as a Fed employee with a dream of FI, Congress’ meddling with (and outright Tea Party hostility toward) federal employees’ pay & benefits has a very real impact on my FI aspirations. Something I cannot just tune out and ignore, even if it does occcasionally leave me enraged.

        That being said, the overall message from MMM in this post is valid and worth considering. The prime example, in my mind, is shark attacks. Even though deaths from shark attacks are more rare than deaths from falling coconuts, the media siezes on these stories, likely to the further detriment of this bellwether species’ very survival.

        Reply
  • Renee s October 1, 2013, 12:24 pm

    I agree completely! I work for the county (we are not shut down because we are not federal) and I had no idea about the shutdown..I read a few headlines about it, but that is it. I was reading my PF blogs today and a blogger wrote about it which made me research it more. A lot of the people I work with thought I was a little crazy, but in reality, my life hasn’t changed because of it. I can’t do all of my work duties because we work with a lot of federal agencies, but other than that–everything in my world is the same as it was yesterday. Not knowing things like governments shutting down makes me a lot less stressed. I sometimes will watch the news for a few minutes–and everything is so SAD and DEPRESSING! Babies are always dying and there is so much murder and negativity. I am a lot happier now that I don’t watch the news.

    Reply
  • Kraig October 1, 2013, 12:29 pm

    Agreed, MMM. I too, know basically nothing about this shutdown business and don’t plan to find out. It seems to happen every year or so and life tends to go on every year when it ends.

    I’ve got more important things to read, like positive and encouraging articles from people actually doing something meaningful with their lives.

    Reply
  • Robb October 1, 2013, 12:31 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. Just like when someone asks me if I’ve heard so-and-so’s latest hit song, and I say no, and then they play it for me and I’m like, yeah, I have heard that but have no idea where I heard it. The news is the same way, the important stuff filters down. I indulge in ONE political blog, but I do see it as an indulgence.

    Reply
  • veganbetty October 1, 2013, 12:31 pm

    Well done! A News Diet is essential to happiness, so little of it is in our control so what is the point of the high blood pressure you get from it? Facebook is beyond awful. I was ‘addicted’ at one point, recognized it, had my husband change my password, and now I rarely get on and every time I do, realize how useless it is. The turning point came when I realized I was looking at a friend of a friend’s friend’s vacation pictures! Whoa, didn’t that used to be the definition of boring: seeing someone’s vacation slideshow? :)

    Reply
    • Ms. Must-stash October 2, 2013, 1:29 pm

      Love this comment – too true! I had an epiphany about a year ago, when I realized that whenever I went on FB, it was not only wasting my time but making me unhappy. I now only login about once a week, tops, mostly to see pics of my friends’ cute kids.

      And then – I read an awesome article that describes this Facebook unhappiness effect in a lot more detail – fascinating!

      http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/09/the-real-reason-facebook-makes-us-unhappy.html

      Reply
  • Done by Forty October 1, 2013, 12:35 pm

    I’m absolutely in line with this kind of approach as a general rule (Ferriss has some very similar thoughts in the 4-Hour Workweek). However, for those who got furloughed today I suppose it would have been beneficial to cover that particular news story, for added preparation.

    I’d say that, unless the news story has a real impact on your life (not your life’s views) then avoiding the news media is a net win for productivity & our sanity. That said, I still love my NPR.

    Reply
  • Meghan October 1, 2013, 12:35 pm

    I look forward to the day that I don’t work for the government and I don’t have to follow BS.

    I am sure I am not the only one, but Facebook gets difficult when that’s the only source of family information. I literally may find out that my Dad is dying in a half hour from FACEBOOK!

    Reply
  • Scott October 1, 2013, 12:37 pm

    While it’s true that large swaths of the news industry are filled with unhelpful or sensationalized information, there are sober, responsible news organizations that inform the electorate and drive our (most of the time) functioning democracy. Such programming can most often be found on public radio and public television, which do not report news as a means of generating revenue.

    Like email or social media, news can be an enriching tool when consumed through responsible sources on a limited, concentrated basis. I totally agree that 24 hour cable news cycles have nothing to offer society, but I think it would be a mistake to write off news consumption as a complete waste of one’s time.

    Reply
  • whitewaterchica October 1, 2013, 12:38 pm

    Another positive way to look at the environmental impact of reduced driving/less cars is the need for less roads. An increase in impermeable surfaces has greatly increased flooding in cities across the country.

    Reply
  • Rory October 1, 2013, 12:45 pm

    Another ‘minimalist’ classic!

    I remember deciding to get all the televisions out of our home back in 2008. We were lost for about a month (what do we do during dinner?), but then finally we got back to communicating with one another. Eventually we started filling our lives with other hobbies, sports, part time work, etc. In short, we began living. Of course, living this way makes it tough to talk to people at work about the latest season of Big Bang Theory…

    But like you said, all the information amounts to little more than squandering our precious time.

    Reply
  • Johnny Moneyseed October 1, 2013, 12:45 pm

    The news has been super-sensational about the recent Congressional decisions (or indecision), and it really doesn’t have any affect on anyone, except for the Government employees. They were forced out of work early this morning, so I’m sitting in what is normally a bustling, busy place, and instead there are about 10 military dudes sitting around waiting for the clock to hit 4pm.

    I can’t agree with this article more though. The media fills people’s heads with gobble-de-gook. And Facebook is like numbing agent for your brain. You would imagine that the news, and socialization would make you “smarter” or “more in touch with what’s happening”, but the exact opposite thing actually happens. TV and the radio make you dumber, and they subtly control your thoughts and actions whether you think so or not.

    Reply
  • Kenneth October 1, 2013, 12:46 pm

    It’s so hard, MMM! Kind of like an addiction to cigarettes, booze, whatever. I’m addicted to wasting time, watching the news, mindless Facebook and web surfing. Perhaps those with long hour jobs (I’m one) just like to crash in the evenings. I understand what you are saying. But I’m at 82 percent on the I suck scale, versus your 15 or 20 percent. I guess it just depends on how bad I want to improve.

    Reply
  • Kate October 1, 2013, 12:48 pm

    Hey man! Not all news is irrelevant or useless. The little public radio station where I work has been trying to get the word out about how the Affordable Care Act will affect our listeners, keeping people informed about what the legislature is doing, and offering perspectives from our own citizens. Pick quality, not quantity. Any news source that doesn’t leave you feeling empowered to participate in the world is not real news.

    Reply
    • CALL 911 October 4, 2013, 8:52 am

      The perspective of the “man on the street” isn’t relevant to anyone except that one man, and certainly isn’t news. It’s a media ploy to try and get viewers/readers/listeners to make a personal “connection” and FEEL the story. News, by it’s very definition is supposed to be devoid of feeling and emotion – a cold dissemination of facts and analysis. Which brings us to the very problem of today. Feelings sell. Cold facts don’t. That’s why the news is presented as it is. Ferry sinkings sell. Puppies sell. Detached reason? Doesn’t sell to the masses.

      Reply
  • BobH October 1, 2013, 12:50 pm

    First of all, you need to de-couple “staying informed” with “watching the news”. You argue against staying informed by pointing out how crappy news programming is in the US (CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc). I agree they are bad, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t better sources.

    “The very fact that bad events are rare these days, makes them newsworthy.”

    Tell that to the 900+ dead Iraqis that got killed this month in a conflict started by your country with your tax dollars.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/01/us-iraq-violence-idUSBRE9900KS20131001

    Your response is simply “Yes, but how does reading about this advance *my* interests?” Well, I suppose it doesn’t given that your interests don’t seem to include worrying about anyone but yourself and your family.

    Reply
    • Tara October 1, 2013, 1:02 pm

      I don’t see it as advancing my interests, I see it as reducing anxiety- and stress-inducing things in my life that I can do nothing about. What good will it do anyone for me to worry about such things? I am informed enough to vote for what I believe in, but bringing all the suffering of the world into my home and brain does nothing positive.

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 1, 2013, 2:24 pm

      Bob H, again you are inadvertently proving the point here: None of us needs a day-to-day report on the casualties to be an informed world citizen. In fact, that’s a distraction from doing any work towards solving the problem.

      You can influence problems like those in Iraq not through daily reading and mourning, but by consuming less oil, voting for less hawkish governments, and reducing poverty and improving education in developing nations.

      Reply
      • Andy October 2, 2013, 2:18 am

        First of all, totally agree with the general point of the post. I’ve all but totally canned facebook and barely watch TV nowadays and am getting a lot more shit done in the spare time I now have!

        Going mildly off topic although in response to your comment above:

        “voting for less hawkish governments”

        What do you suggest in terms of this? I am fairly ignorant to US Politics but it seems to be roughly the same as the UK in terms of 2 (or 3 over here) dominant parties, and a vote for anyone other is nothing but a personal statement, or some might even say a “wasted vote”.
        I realise that it’s a self perpetuating issue, if everyone thinks this way and picks one of the top 2/3 parties instead of what they truly believe in, then those others will never get a look in, but what is the solution?

        Could this movement ever get so big to become a political influence?

        Could “we” start something up ourselves even?

        Has anyone out there who is nearly or fully retired considered using their new found freedom and time to become more active in the political community?

        I’d really like to see a post on your thoughts on this, and the reader comments on it would be also very interesting.

        (if you’ve done one already apologies, I’ve read maybe 70% of the blog and haven’t found it yet if you have.)

        p.s. MMM for president! :)

        Reply
      • David October 2, 2013, 10:31 am

        I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, with the caveat that the more local your news is, the more you should be paying attention to and supporting it. For example, the Boston Globe (which I subscribe to) recently ran a brilliant and horrifying expose of the way in which some unscrupulous cab owners are exploiting their drivers. As a Boston resident, I can ring up my city council person and get something done about this. Also, without my subscription money, this story doesn’t even get done because the Globe doesn’t exist, and no blogger is going to be willing to stake out a garage for 3 months, go undercover, and do the other unglamorous detective work the reporters did.

        It’s funny, I’m a relatively new subscriber to the Globe and I rarely spend more than 5 minutes reading it. I only subscribe so that this type of reporting on and about my city doesn’t go extinct in the internet era. I generally skip the horrific and heartwarming crap they dish out on a daily basis.

        Reply
  • FI Pilgrim October 1, 2013, 1:03 pm

    #truth

    That’s a new and decidedly UNimproved way of saying “truth”, for those of you with better things to do than watch an endless stream of babble pouring through your Twitter feed.

    That’s all, you can get back to being productive humans again.

    Reply
  • Lou October 1, 2013, 1:06 pm

    I don’t think you’re 100% right on this. There are stupid news and unfortunately they make up the majority of the 24 hour news cycle, and then there are important news. I think, the government shut-down as a result of the current congressional impasse is in that second category. This is important stuff to know about, not because it is scary but because it is something I should keep in mind next time I go vote. There are many other kinds of news, I want to know about, obviously it’s not the latest news in traffic fatalities. Happily ignoring any kind of news can’t be the answer to lousy tv news reporting. There has to be a better medium, probably one that involves more conscious decision making over which media outlets I consume and how much, rather than avoiding the news altogether.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 1, 2013, 1:53 pm

      I see your point, Lou, but here’s the thing about that: if there is any IMPORTANT news, you’ll hear about it from your friends. I knew that my city was flooding while I was away in Ecuador, because my wife and friends told me about it. I learned about the government shutdown from actual federal employees.

      If you don’t hear about it from friends, or already know about it from reading books and the odd magazine on world economics, it is very, very likely not worth knowing. And it is not worth soaking up a flood of irrelevant information in hopes of getting the occasional tidbit that is relevant to you.

      For example, look at Alicia’s comment above. She speculated that I might become poor and unable to buy groceries for my son due to not watching the news. Exactly the opposite is true: I have become wealthy and able to buy groceries FOREVER because of this habit.

      Even in the event of a complete collapse of the United States, I could afford to buy a house in any other country, in part because of getting my time back by not watching the news.

      Even in the event of a complete collapse of all economic systems, I can build a pretty mean dwelling using entirely salvaged materials – due to the practice I’ve had in various skills, made possible partly BY NOT WASTING TIME WATCHING THE FUCKING NEWS!!

      Reply
      • Ben October 1, 2013, 2:34 pm

        While I agree with you on TV News (and Facebook, email, etc) being a waste of time, I have to disagree when it comes to staying informed on current events. I like to read the news, usually online, sometimes even in an actual newspaper, or listen to it on the radio, preferably NPR. If someone _enjoys_ learning about the world that way and _enjoys_ talking about those events with other informed people, how is that a waste of time? Yeah, it takes practice and maybe a little sociopathic apathy (or is that Zen? – eh, same thing) to stay detached and not get emotional about what you hear but some of us actually like to know about current events and how they fit into the stream of history.

        Reply
      • Lou October 1, 2013, 3:39 pm

        It’s those absolute terms you’re using that I disagree with. Listening to NPR for an hour while I do some clean up around the house is not a waste of time. In fact it’s a great way to stay informed. But not if I followed you’re prescription “to pay absolutely no attention to the news”. Come on! You gotta be a bit more nuanced than that.

        Reply
      • Justin October 1, 2013, 11:34 pm

        MMM, the problem with relying on friends for news is that you don’t tend to get new perspectives. I’m not talking about you, specifically, but people in general. The reason my great Aunt thinks Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya is because she got her “news” from her friends. The reason my grandma thinks food stamps primarily feed surfer dudes with the munchies is because she clicked the link from a friend. There is a great value in quality journalism that at least aims to be impartial or to present facts. One of the reasons we’re in this partisan predicament is that the left and the right are both caught in their own echo chambers (the web makes this even easier). I don’t EVER watch TV news, just like I don’t eat twinkies, but I try to use my limited time and intelligence to understand what is happening in my country and how it is affecting my fellow citizens – ideally before it gets turned into history in a book.

        Basically, I am agreeing with Lou here.

        As a side note, I think the personal finance world (including this blog) tends to attract people of the libertarian persuasion – people who might not be too aware or appreciative of the services provided by the government. It would be unfortunate (in my opinion, of course) if, based on your advice here, people threw up their hands and said “screw this fucked up system, I’m going to focus on my own net worth and my own survival strategies”. This is where it actually IS informative to know that kids are going to hungry because of this shutdown. For example, the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is now going to run out of funds for things like formula, milk, vegetables, and fruit for low income families. This information will certainly impact my voting decisions, and, more urgently, how I communicate with my representatives. I think that is part of one’s responsibility as a member of the community.

        Reply
        • Joe October 3, 2013, 7:53 pm

          I agree that it would be unfortunate if those with an interest in personal finance simply gave up and became hermits. One of the most interesting and broad perspectives that I gained was reading a MMM recommended book: Economics Explained.

          In the book, one of its most important take home ideas was that, no matter one’s political views or opinion of the role in government, a functional government has to have certain features and services. At its most basic, we all rely on national defense, infrastructure, and the Federal Reserve/Treasury to conduct daily business. The relative importance of governmental involvement in social affairs and other areas can certainly be disputed, but there is a role for SOME minimal governmental services.

          Reply
      • Maverick October 2, 2013, 4:31 am

        OMG, without keeping informed by the media 24/7 how will I know when World War Z breaks out? I’ll turn into a zombie! Oh the humanity! We’ll need to hope Brad Pitt rescues us all. :)

        Reply
      • Walt October 2, 2013, 9:59 am

        Honestly, some of us don’t have the wide-ranging group of friends that you seem to.

        The only people in my life who might mention anything political or governmental would be my mom or mother-in-law, both of whom will have learned about it on Fox News.

        I’ll keep my daily habit of skimming the Google news page.

        Need to kick that nasty Reddit habit, though… damn that’s a time sucking hole of worthlessness.

        Reply
        • Ms. Must-stash October 2, 2013, 2:56 pm

          I have a well-informed group of friends (and co-workers) with varying interests (policy/politics, technology, environment, etc.) and I heartily concur that if you have surrounded yourself with such people, you can learn all the news you need from them.

          Oh, and you can learn all about the latest music trends too without having to bother researching things yourself. It is so efficient to have other people filter most things for you, and people dearly love to teach others new things, so everyone is happy. :-)

          Reply
  • Carlos Rendon October 1, 2013, 1:09 pm

    Have you seen the film “Network”?
    This post reminds me of Howard Beale.

    Reply
  • Bryan October 1, 2013, 1:14 pm

    We’re with you MMM. My wife and I clipped the cable and gave away our tv and entertainment center long ago. If we want to rent a Redbox, it’s on the laptop. Most nights we have dinner as a family and when the house is quiet we squeeze in some reading. Our thoughts aren’t nearly as scattered if we focus on doing one thing at a time.

    What’s up with the Haters posting up there? It doesn’t matter in the least which party does what, when, or why. Congress might as well be the same party of do nothing losers, whose only real concern is getting reelected. The “news” shouldn’t waste the air time on them anyway
    -Bryan

    Reply
  • Cecile October 1, 2013, 1:15 pm

    I have the same POV: I got lucky to grow up in a house that did not have a TV (thanks Mom and Dad), and therefore never got to watch the news!

    I do like to know more or less what is “going on” on the world though but I don’t want to spend too much time doing it, so here is how I do it:

    1. I installed leechblock on my browser, and I can’t access any news website, except for 30min per day during the lunch break.
    2. I get all my information in one place: inoreader that I can also only access at lunchtime (this is how I read MMM).
    – For the news, I get a stream from a German newspaper, this way I can practice my German (note that since it is hard, I read a lot less…)
    – I get mostly uplifting news on the environment/ ecologic transition in another stream (this way I can “check” on various projects from people like you and me: collective gardens, etc… if I think something might be interesting, i read it all, otherwise, I just look at the headline).
    – The few blogs I read also get in this inoreader, often I read “in a diagonal”, sometimes I read more in depth, sometimes I leave a comment on a blog when I think it is relevant.

    The reason why I installed this system is that I absolutely love reading, there is always something I find interesting, something I want to know more about etc… I had to put physical limits so I could actually get some work done in my own real life ;-) since I am not badass enough to do that just with willpower, I had to find a technical way…

    Good luck to anyone starting on the low information diet!

    Reply
    • Christof October 3, 2013, 4:39 pm

      Hopefully this German newspaper is not BILD… that would neither help your language skills, nor provide information.

      Reply
  • thrackle October 1, 2013, 1:16 pm

    Just wanted to +1 this article. I used to be a true information addict: every day for a decade I read CNN, BBC, CBC, Al Jazeera, Slashdot, TechCrunch, Wired, Twitter, The Economist, etc. And when I say every day, I mean EVERY day, usually 10 or more times a day.

    Eventually I realized that it’s 1) mostly irrelevant news, 2) cyclical, and 3) that all the smart people already know or predicted years ago what’s now being reported. So if you just check in every once in a while (every six months or so) you’re pretty much covered as a responsible citizen.

    Lastly, I might share a little filter I use for whether I want to hear about a particular news story: will it still be relevant 100 years from now*. This alone filters about 99% of information. Pick a shorter time horizon if you want, but even with a one-year time horizon I bet you’ll quickly notice that almost nothing that is reported actually matters to the future.

    * this thought is inspired by the Long Now foundation’s “Long News” blog: http://blog.longnow.org/category/news-items-that-are-of-long-term-consequence/

    Reply
  • Victor October 1, 2013, 1:21 pm

    Removed the push function on my phones e-mail client after reading this post. I had been thinking about it for quite some time. Took 1 minute. Is going to save me hours.

    Reply
  • Mr. 1500 October 1, 2013, 1:26 pm

    It always makes me sad when I see parents at the park staring at their iPhone screens, paying no attention to their children. How many moments are people missing out on because they have to read that text?

    I have recently started leaving my phone at home when I’m at the park with my children.

    Reply
    • Moises October 8, 2013, 3:58 pm

      Well pointed!

      Reply
  • mollyjade October 1, 2013, 1:39 pm

    Having grown up in a family of print journalists, I do think there’s value in being informed. But that means spending a small part of the day reading or listening to high quality sources. So a few minutes of NPR or a quick read of a national newspaper and the local section of the local paper. No TV news at all (though I do find it hard to resist on election night). Ignore the ephemera (i.e. Miley Cyrus or extended coverage of natural disasters).

    I agree with you mostly, but I think there are ways to do it right. And if you find yourself awake worrying about the debt ceiling at night, you’re doing it wrong (unless that’s your industry).

    Reply
  • RubeRad October 1, 2013, 1:42 pm

    FANTASTIC post! I also abandoned the ‘news’ years ago, and only heard about the impending shutdown because of emails from management at work, because a few of us might stop working during the shutdown (not me, thankfully). For those interested in pursuing this topic further,

    (a) read Neil Postman’s prophetic classic Amusing Ourselves To Death

    (b) read Nicholas Carr’s more recent The Shallows

    (c) listen to the Radiolab program on the HG/Orson Welles War-of-the-Worlds riot(s), it has some fantastic insights near the end about how news programs purposefully craft storylines to move from alarm to reassurance.

    Reply
    • Nerode October 3, 2013, 3:42 pm

      I have to re-read the Postman book – it ought to be essential reading for the connected generation!

      And I now have The Shallows on my to-read list.

      Or am I then consuming too much information?

      Reply
  • woodnclay October 1, 2013, 1:51 pm

    Great article and I agree 100%.

    I wanted to add something to your first footnote (*). In addition to clown driving affecting the weather it also has an impact on drainage – all that tarmac makes areas more prone to flooding, as rain cannot soak into the ground and is channeled unnaturally.

    Reply
  • Olivia October 1, 2013, 1:53 pm

    I was definitely a little discouraged to read this, as a news reporter. I’m not advocating spending all your time staying up-to-date on the 24-hour news cycle. Even I get a little exhausted by that, as someone in the news industry. But I do think there’s a lot of value in local news, especially…knowing what’s going on in your local community and local government, as someone who’s a member of that community. I hear from plenty of people that they don’t like the news because it’s depressing, and that’s valid…we do cover a lot of really sad, out-of-the-ordinary stuff — but I also find plenty of people who appreciate knowing what’s going on in their world and local community.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 1, 2013, 2:01 pm

      Thanks Olivia, I love to hear the perspective of someone in the industry. The thing is, I believe we citizens are better off getting the local news from the city council’s website and maybe the local paper or business journal. The short-form nature of broadcast reporting encourages too much skimming over and discourages in-depth research. Still, local TV news (as long as it doesn’t focus on murders and abductions) is a less ridiculous concept than national TV news.

      Reply
      • Olivia October 1, 2013, 2:10 pm

        Yeah, I can understand that. In many cases, though, local news outlets (TV or paper) are the only ones who are putting that info out there, from city council etc. In the area where I live and work, most of the city and town councils are much too small to have functional websites, or they don’t keep them up to date with minutes and info. Our viewers rely on us to find out that info and keep those officials accountable a lot of the time. And in smaller towns, sometimes the newspapers don’t have the staff to sort through all that info. I understand your concern about short-form reporting — but I promise you there are a lot of us broadcasters trying to do good work and be as in-depth as we can even with that short-form medium.

        Reply
      • Maverick October 2, 2013, 4:35 am

        There’s an Eagles song now playing in my head. Can anyone guess which one?

        Reply
        • Heath October 2, 2013, 9:48 am

          Get Over It!

          Excellent song, by the way :-)

          Reply
          • Maverick October 3, 2013, 12:08 pm

            Dirty Laundry.
            “We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who
            Comes on at five
            She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam
            In her eye
            It’s interesting when people die-
            Give us dirty laundry “

            Reply
      • DP October 4, 2013, 8:03 am

        There are also occasions where the local media help to expose problems in local government which for obvious reasons are not highlighted on an official government website. That’s one of the reasons we value a free press. As a (low-level) local government employee I’ve seen examples of good and bad reporting. Often the paper gets everything wrong, but other times they bring problems to the public’s attention and act as a catalyst for improvement.

        I’m not saying we all have to be tuned in all day long, but I also recognize there is value to having a press that is independent of the government.

        Reply
    • Ann Stanley October 1, 2013, 7:13 pm

      Think global, act local to be effective and happy. Education about global states of affairs is important, but whether that needs to come from ‘news’ is debatable. It’s certainly not a duty to keep informed on everything that’s going on in the world – that would be insane. Who am I? God? Do good where you are – let go of the rest.

      Reply
  • Christine October 1, 2013, 1:58 pm

    And I learned about the flood in Longmont on this blog. ha!

    Some ppl try to make you feel guilty about not reading/watching the news.. my parents included! I only search for the entertainment and knowledge I want to watch or read. It is much better that way. And saves a fortune from no cable!

    However sometimes people are astonished I haven’t heard of a big event that happened. I’ve learned to laugh that off though. It is so much better with a free mind!

    Oh and recently a friend of mine realized that watching the news wasn’t helping her out either. She’s also stopping.

    Reply
  • Kurt October 1, 2013, 2:05 pm

    I empathize with your rant and sentiments. But where do you get information? On what basis do you choose candidates who will receive your vote, for example? You certainly can’t rely only on what candidates say, which as we know is 100% b.s. Has the corporatization of news jeopardized our democracy? Does a meaningful portion of the electorate rely on anything other than slick tv commercials to choose a candidate? I’m not expecting answers from you really, just wondering out loud.

    Here in Canada we do have a partially publicly funded news service, the CBC. As an American, I think the CBC is excellent, but then all I have for comparison are lame-o U.S. examples like CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and all the rest. PBS used to be good, but they’ve been so cowed by threats to their funding that I wouldn’t listen to them anymore either.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 1, 2013, 2:19 pm

      Books, my man, Books! You read everything the candidate has ever written, and you ignore the things he or she says in front of the camera. Then you cast your vote.

      By the way, here we do have NPR which is as good as the CBC on the radio side.

      Reply
      • Margaret October 1, 2013, 4:14 pm

        And you look at what the politicians have actually DONE. Check out their actions, not words. Look at their voting records, who they talk to & who they actually help.

        Reply
      • Self-Employed-Swami October 1, 2013, 8:07 pm

        I am glad to see you mention the CBC. As a fellow Canadian, that is my main news source. I’ve watched (in horror and fascination) the documentary ‘Outfoxed’ about Fox News, and couldn’t believe it. I read the CBC’s local pages almost daily, and I watch The National if I happen to be home in the evenings, but I just the amount of flashing headlines, and scrolling tidbits, is overwhelming.
        And I love CBC Radio, when I’m in the car. Always interesting, and not trying to sell you anything through fear.

        Reply
      • Chris Jambo October 2, 2013, 5:17 am

        I agree — NPR is a great resource. But, for some reason I keep going back to the USA Today site, but once I’m done, I realize that my time was mostly wasted.

        I think it would be very interesting to know what other websites you look at on a regular basis.

        Reply
  • Mikhaela October 1, 2013, 2:14 pm

    For nine years I was a political cartoonist and it was horribly depressing. Getting lots of vicious hate mail and just endlessly combing through all the bad angry horrible things happening in the world for cartoon ideas—over and over and over.

    Still, I had moments where my news-junkie life paid off and a cartoon would really resonate with people or help make a difference on an important issue I cared about… Because sometimes there is something that happens in the news where acting fast and spreading the word and being informed quickly can make a big difference: the earthquake in Haiti, pending local or national legislation on issues that matter)…

    I quit regular political cartooning and constant online news reading and radio listening when I became pregnant with my daughter and I now follow a much leaner news diet—very occasionally listening to NPR, keeping on top of major news in areas I care about (international news, the environment, local issues in NYC, LGBT issues, women’s issues).

    Instead I read tons of books and some select newspapers, magazines, blogs and podcasts. I usually have about 10 books out from the library at any given time. It’s often a better, more measured lens on big important issues anyway.

    But the 24-hour news CNN cycle of paranoia and “everything is dangerous” and celebrity nonsense is worthless and doesn’t generally result in anything positive… it just makes me feel like if I walk out the front door with my kid and get on the bicycle WE ARE RISKING DEATH. As is cable television—we canceled our cable in 2007 and I have never missed it for a moment.

    And I think I’m really going to work on being much more strategic about Facebook and email use as well!

    P.S. I do want to add that I think there is a huge value in investigative journalism and in quality newspaper feature writing and reporting… and in being informed. But there has to be a balance.

    Reply
  • Everyday Ryan October 1, 2013, 2:17 pm

    I’m guilty too. Although this past year our family has all but cut-out TV completely. Just a few movies and sporting events here and there. But I have no idea what shows are on, what’s popular…..I don’t care. In fact, I find it funny when I hear friends talking about all the shows they watch….every….single….week, and every….single….night. Ahhhhh. Too much free time!

    Reply
  • Buttercup October 1, 2013, 2:27 pm

    While I agree that watching and reading the news all the time is a mistake (I personally do not have cable and do not really read the news) I believe in the case of government shutdown people should care enough to learn about it. It kind of peeves me that people are saying “they aren’t affected so they don’t care” and it “only affects government workers”!
    I work for a government contractor and it is very saddening that a lot of my coworkers will not be able to work or be paid for an undetermined amount of time.
    I think the residents of the US should pay attention and see the choices that their elected officials are making and what impact that is having on many, many families.

    Reply
    • PawPrint October 1, 2013, 4:50 pm

      Definitely agree with your last statement, especially being the mother of a furloughed government employee. My youngest daughter is twiddling her thumbs at the Grand Canyon, waiting to see if she should stay around in case the park is opened again or leave because it might be shut for weeks. The shutdown does have widespread consequences to the ordinary person. For example, if you had planned a trip to one of our awesome national parks, well, forget it. If you were camping at one of the parks, you have 48 hours to leave. Perhaps inconsequential to someone reading this, but not so to the people who saved for the trip, took time off and traveled distances to get to the park. Maybe if they’d noticed that there might be a government shutdown on Oct. 1, they would have saved themselves cash, time and trouble.

      Reply
  • AdamK October 1, 2013, 2:34 pm

    Greetings from NZ. Definitely something to the self improvement list. Reminded me of some stuff I read from Nassim Taleb, author of “Black Swan”. Some google searches show Rolf Dobelli now has a whole book on the subject.

    Not sure if your sight will allow me to submit links, but here is some more info for those who are interested:

    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-05-05/interviews/39041925_1_twitter-account-reward-centre-addiction

    http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/apr/12/news-is-bad-rolf-dobelli

    Reply
  • Mark October 1, 2013, 2:44 pm

    Several years ago, I tiptoed into our bedroom bleary-eyed after watching the movie, South Pacific, on cable until it concluded around 5 a.m. My long-asleep wife rolled over, opened her eyes and quietly said, “It’s cable TV . . . or me.” Needless to say, I canceled our cable subscription that very day (and have been happily married to the same lady for 35 years).

    Reply
    • Mrs. PoP October 1, 2013, 6:26 pm

      at least cable went out on a high note for you. South Pacific is one of my favorite musicals of all time. =)

      Reply
  • payitoff October 1, 2013, 2:47 pm

    how funny it is that i automatically “hide” the person on my FB the moment she/he starts posting drama, and everytime i go there, there’s always a rollercoaster of emotions involved (smile, laugh, frown, rolleyes all in 1 minute) and never once have thought of unplugging for a week, why not? ok im doing it right now. can i skip intragram though? i only follow people that gives me positive vibes and motivation there ;)

    Reply
  • Rozy October 1, 2013, 2:53 pm

    We lived through the 1995 shutdown; my husband was active duty USMC, nothing much changed, during or after. Now we’re glad the government has shut down!! We’d like to permanently shut down most of it. We haven’t watched TV news or anything else since 1990, but I do sometimes overload on internet news sites. Thanks for the reminder to cut loose and just live life. I remember a college history professor who, after telling us all about the pharaohs or kings or what have you, would say something like, now the rest of us peasants were doing such and such. Who ever is in charge, life goes on, we sow, we reap, we work, we play and all our “information” doesn’t change much. I agree that too much imbibing of the fear-mongering can dampen the spirits of the most hearty. I believe your advice is sound and timely. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Beth October 1, 2013, 2:59 pm

    Well. I totally agree with you, and I’ve massively reduced the amount of news I consume recently.
    But one thing is worrying me about this…. namely that the government in the UK are currently trying to destroy most of the services that make the UK great, including the sector I currently work in. I am campaigning to try and prevent it from happening, but I am well aware that this is only one microscopic cog in their catastrophic plan of WRECKING THE ENTIRE UK (no hyperbole… honest).
    Do I just rely on other people to tell me about what I need to be fighting about? Or do I start reading Hansard (the written transcripts of everything that happens in the UK government)?!

    Reply
  • CSA October 1, 2013, 3:05 pm

    “And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter — we never need read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications? To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.”

    -Thoreau, Walden

    Reply
    • Heath October 1, 2013, 4:49 pm

      Oh, that is SO fantastic! I can’t believe I never heard that quote from Thoreau before. I’m sharing this with a news-aholic that also really idolizes Thoreau. Hopefully it will be enough of a face-punch to free up some of his brain and time :-)

      Reply
    • Ann Stanley October 1, 2013, 7:28 pm

      Thoreau is the man!

      Reply
    • Jamin October 3, 2013, 1:22 pm

      This is exactly where my head went. A must read for all mustacians.

      mustache’s ** footnote adds clarity to the statement.

      Reply
  • Jenn October 1, 2013, 3:06 pm

    Wow. This is one of your best articles yet. I want to read it about 4 more times.

    Reply
  • Willis Montgomery III October 1, 2013, 3:11 pm

    I switched over from NPR to Classical music. This morning I enjoyed Rachmaninoff No. 2. Sure beats hearing about the latest mass shooting or how [rich company name that externalizes environmental costs] stole from the pension fund and/or which CEO has the biggest house that is vacant the most days a year.

    Reply
  • Herr Handlebar October 1, 2013, 3:21 pm

    I’m a bit surprised nobody has mentioned the excellent book The Information Diet A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay A. Johnson.

    “The modern human animal spends upwards of 11 hours out of every 24 in a state of constant consumption. Not eating, but gorging on information ceaselessly spewed from the screens and speakers we hold dear. Just as we have grown morbidly obese on sugar, fat, and flour—so, too, have we become gluttons for texts, instant messages, emails, RSS feeds, downloads, videos, status updates, and tweets.

    We’re all battling a storm of distractions, buffeted with notifications and tempted by tasty tidbits of information. And just as too much junk food can lead to obesity, too much junk information can lead to cluelessness. The Information Diet shows you how to thrive in this information glut—what to look for, what to avoid, and how to be selective. In the process, author Clay Johnson explains the role information has played throughout history, and why following his prescribed diet is essential for everyone who strives to be smart, productive, and sane.”

    It is an excellent tome that will refine the way you think about mass media. I’m certain it is available in a library near you.

    http://www.informationdiet.com/

    Reply
  • Mike October 1, 2013, 3:55 pm

    It makes sense. I find news and Facebook to be tedious and unrewarding, so I’m not afflicted by an addiction to those things, even though I do have a Facebook account and am up to date on the major headlines. Sports, on the other hand, are all kinds of awesome. I spend an obscene amount of time watching and reading about sports. I can’t fathom giving it up entirely, and even cutting back seems daunting.

    MMM, you’re not obligated by Canadian law to follow hockey?

    Reply
  • Jen October 1, 2013, 4:15 pm

    If news articles are irrelevant because they are published by corporations with shareholders, then why are books, which are also published by corporations with shareholders, a better source of information?

    Most books are not “well-researched” compared to news articles. Many books are written by amateurs. Some books by prominent people are ghostwritten. Books can be full of PR and edited to within an inch of their lives. The top books of 2013 according to Amazon include Shred: The Revolutionary Diet 6 Weeks 4 Inches 2 Sizes, and Fifty Shades of Grey. You can check the list for more examples of books that some would consider “noise”.

    If a consumer has to pick and choose their books, what’s wrong with picking and choosing their news sources?

    Reply
    • conchita October 8, 2013, 6:38 pm

      Thank you for your comment Jen. I wholeheartedly agree!

      support people-powered media.

      Reply
  • Grant October 1, 2013, 4:17 pm

    I just shared this on Facebook. The irony is not lost on me.

    I have been taking this approach for some time – mostly because the sensationalist nature of commercial news shits me. The fact that they take a spin on any factoid to make it the most polarising just to stir the pot insults my intelligence.

    I do think the title of this article is possibly wrong. Low “sensationalist editorial” diet is possibly more accurate – what the tabloid press is pumping out can hardly be called information.

    Reply
  • trf October 1, 2013, 4:24 pm

    But I learned about this excellent web site by reading the Washington Post . . .

    Reply
  • Debbie M October 1, 2013, 5:05 pm

    I’m pretty bad at keeping up with the news (as is being celebrated here)–I get most of my news from my friends on Facebook. (And this is how I keep up with friends in other cities.)

    Also, I sign petitions, so places that set up petitions keep me informed, too (in time to sign petitions, even). Argh, but they never let you opt out of non-petition e-mails, so it’s turned into a pretty big clog on my e-mail, but I don’t know what else to do (besides unsubscribe to groups that don’t focus on the issues most important to me).

    I fear that I won’t realize in time if it’s time to flee my country, like many people in Nazi Germany or people who looked Japanese before the US started throwing them in interment camps during WWII. No amount of savings or ingenuity makes it okay to be locked up and mistreated, even if you aren’t experimented on or gassed. Yes, that hardly ever happens, especially in Western countries. But if it does happen, I sure would like to be gone.

    Reply
  • rjack October 1, 2013, 5:30 pm

    “The news also completely fucks up the layperson’s perception of risk.”

    This is a really important point! The constant bombardment of bad news not only distorts a layperson’s perspective on risk, but his overall worldview. If I were an alien watching the news, I would conclude that:

    1) Humans are an extremely violent species.
    2) Most humans experience major natural disasters daily.
    3) A human only cares about himself.

    Anyway, I’m trying an experiment for the remainder of this week. I’m avoiding all forms of news and see how it “feels”.

    Reply
    • FrugalinGeorgia October 2, 2013, 4:17 pm

      They’d also think Lindsey Lohan and the Kardashians must be the rulers of the planet.

      Reply
      • Eileen October 3, 2013, 12:28 pm

        This reminded me of a time when my extended family was sitting around the table and my nephew was talking about his speech class. They had to draw a topic from a hat and give an impromptu speech on it. His topic was the Kardashians. My sister-in-law, in all seriousness, asked him “What is a Kardashian? Is that something from Star Trek?” She is kind of my hero now.

        Reply
  • Micro October 1, 2013, 5:35 pm

    I knew about the shutdown only because I do contract work for the federal government (one tends to pay attention as to whether or not they might need to show up for work). The thing that actually surprised me was how the markets went. Despite all the doom and gloom and doomsday by the news, the markets just kept ticking upwards. Investors didn’t give two licks that the government shut down. They just ignored the WWE style grandstanding and figured things would be moving along soon enough.

    Reply
  • Lance October 1, 2013, 6:12 pm

    The financial news is the worst. CNBC and Fox Business constantly try to over explain everything and help scare people into buying high and selling low. If you don’t hear about it though, chances are you wouldn’t even notice other than an occasional planned check up to make sure you’re meeting your goals.

    Reply
  • TH October 1, 2013, 6:27 pm

    It’s important to make a distinction between “news” and “TV news.” We all know that anything having to do with TV in general is useless. But reading newspapers and staying informed about their country are important for citizens of a democracy. We can’t just focus on our own lives and ignore the broader community. As they say, the bad guys win as long as the good guys do nothing.

    Obviously some news sources are better than others, and there’s no need to dump a huge amount of time on it, but we should not celebrate ignorance of current events.

    Reply
  • Eliot Rosewater October 1, 2013, 6:30 pm

    MMM, I can’t stand the news and was nodding my head in agreement, right up until you suggested that we should avoid “all forms of irrelevant information.” For me, watching Liverpool football club falls into the same category as spending 90 minutes looking at a sunset (observing the beauty of nature).

    Reply
  • Insourcelife October 1, 2013, 6:30 pm

    Yes, it’s irrelevant but only until it becomes relevant, for instance if you are one of the people who can’t go to work because of the gigantic fuck-up that we call “government”. I personally don’t watch the news, which is easy since we don’t have cable, but not everyone can shut the world out since a lot of what’s happening will affect them much more than say MMM’s family, which is a bit more insulated in its current position. They can all strive to become more insulated as well, no doubt, but can’t be as isolated in the process. However, I totally agree with the main theme of this post and wish more people would unplug more often. The 24/7 news networks will make your life miserable.

    Reply
  • Sconnie October 1, 2013, 6:31 pm

    First time commenter, long time reader. Thank you MMM.

    I, personally, find this article to hit home, with one exception. You see, I am from Wisconsin, and our passions are the Packers, beer, cheese, and brats (in that order). Watching sports is the only thing on tv that doesn’t leave me wanting to rant or slit my wrists (well, the Packers losing in the playoffs may be an exception). I’m not out there buying tickets or memorabilia, and I try to tune out the drama and the cheater stories. Besides the wasted time on the couch, I find being a passionate sports fan to be somewhat healthy. It promotes a sense of community and loyalty. Thoughts?

    Otherwise, I think you are spot on with this article. Thank you again. I look forward to every new post.

    Reply
  • DebtDerp October 1, 2013, 6:32 pm

    I’m going to have to somewhat disagree with you on this one MMM. While I agree that the pointless sensationalism of the media a la MSNBC, Fox and CNN is completely irrelevant and actually somewhat harmful, I also think that staying informed on current issues and understanding the ideological arguments one way or the other on solving major problems is worthwhile.

    Yes news stories about so and so’s celebrity baby, or a poor kid getting his eyes gouged out is not relevant at all and I pay no attention to them. However, I think you bring it to far to the extreme when you say “You need to get the News out of your life, right away, and for life.” And in a comment above you say that you can get important news from your friends, books, and the occasional magazine.

    I, for one, find some form of value in understanding the issues that are affecting our world today. I think it’s important for me to have an informed opinion on whether I agree with, recently, the President’s assertion that our nation should bomb Syria, or each side’s reasoning behind today’s partial shutdown of the Government. I want to understand the environmental implications of the nuclear reactor meltdown that appears to be getting worse at Fukushima and the geo-political ramifications of the sectarian violence occurring in Iraq. I’m concerned about the humanitarian consequences of conflicts in places like Darfur. These issues are too fresh and ever-changing to find complete information on in a book or periodical. Also, I would argue, it makes more sense to read a few well researched articles from a reputable news source than a three hundred page book for every relevant story.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think this is exactly the type of news you had in mind when you said “It is all bullshit” but it still got lumped in there.

    I guess I just don’t see it as a waste of my time to stay informed on these issues. Granted, I try not to let some of the more divisive issues or the opinions of another person piss me off. Still, staying current on the news keeps me aware of the issues facing the world today, helps to keep me grounded, informs some of the decisions I make, and allows me to form an opinion on current topics that I can back up.

    On another note, you can totally fault me for tracking stories on a handful of sports teams I shamelessly follow. After all, my hometown Soccer team is four games away from their first playoff berth! ;)

    Reply
    • Jackie October 2, 2013, 5:33 am

      How accurate is all that information anyway? It IS like gossip (and we humans love gossip, until it’s about us!)…..it’s amazing how much the “facts” change as time goes on. Better to wait and see what ” the other side” of the story is. Educating ourselves is a whole different process than than being spoon fed half truths. The other bee in my bonnet is….How come “those” stories for day? Who decided “those” stories were soooo important. I can guarantee you that for every child hurt in China there are JUST as many disgusting acts happening all over the world. If they are cherry picking their news with sensational stories about kids,etc., I believe they are doing the same thing with “real and valid” news. It’s about their bottom line….

      Reply
  • Patrick October 1, 2013, 6:37 pm

    Love it! Too true. In additional to books I would add informative financial blogs.

    Also,
    NPR = No Problem unReported

    Reply
  • conchita October 1, 2013, 6:53 pm

    Hi MMM! I was at your ottawa party and wish we could have chatted about this in person. (I was feeling a bit shy to say hello, but my family did have an EXCELLENT time). I agree with you on a lot of things esp re living a frugal yet so wholly satisfying lifestyle. And I agree with many points in this post, but I think what you are referring to is the bullshit corporate media which feeds fear and inane celebrity details to the masses, without proper context or even truth. Nothing irks me more than picking up the free commuter “newspapers” with all their ridiculous headlines.
    On the other hand, I’m all for for independent, citizen-powered news to steal the AVAAZ slogan. BTW, I digress, but how awesome is AVAAZ? I find that sites like democracynow are great. Can anyone with any fibre of a moral compass truly say that Amy Goodman is not the most kick ass journalist ever? I also find that articles in zmag/znet are more like essays – with proper context, citations and historical documentation. I’ll put a plug in for the real news network too which doesn’t accept any government or business funding. I think it is important to be concerned, involved citizens, and I agree with you that reading books is very important – but I’ve read some kick ass analysis on current affairs on these alternative media sites which inform my opinions and made me savvyer (at the risk of sounding smug) at how the world runs and how we can try to make it better.

    Reply
  • Ron October 1, 2013, 7:03 pm

    This is priceless, MMM and Rush Limbaugh actually agree on something – Rush is always telling his listeners to turn off the news and relax, they can get all the news they need from his program… He also coined the phrase “low information voter”, to describe those that vote based on sound bites from the lame stream media…hmmm?

    Reply
  • Tyler October 1, 2013, 7:09 pm

    The irony is that I found this article while surfing the information highway today…

    Reply
  • mike October 1, 2013, 7:34 pm

    So, IOW, you’re trying to tell me this is not important news?

    Reply
  • Gerard October 1, 2013, 7:34 pm

    I really noticed how irrelevant most of the daily news was after we moved away from Ottawa. All these sports-style stories covering the ups and downs of the Canadian federal government and the opposition parties: New poll results! Who’s going to be in the cabinet shuffle? Whose expense account is being audited? And that was the *smart* station. The rest of the news was stuff like whether some rich guy’s wife was going to dye her poodle to match her wig (I think it was her actual poodle, not a euphemism). None of it mattered to anybody more than 20 miles from Parliament.
    That said, there are things I want to know. Is any one huge corporation being especially evil, to the environment or its workers or its customers? Who’s financing which politician? Which ridiculous food health and safety claims should I believe? But most news media can’t cover those stories in a useful way, because it’s expensive and it pisses off rich and powerful people. I guess I’ll have to take MMM’s advice and start reading books.

    Reply
  • Chris October 1, 2013, 8:19 pm

    I like the idea of managing information inflow. I recently read a comment on this topic that read like: “Comaparision is the thief of joy, the more disconnected I become, the happier I am (apropos social media).”

    There’s a balance to be had. There is quality content out there, notably, NPR. I consistently walk away from a lunch break, with NPR in the background, feeling well informed and satisfied with the quality of the content (lack of pop culture bullshit). The goal should be to manage how often we have our noses pointed at a computer/phone vs pointed at the world around us.

    Reply
  • Jason P October 1, 2013, 8:21 pm

    Is it bad that I took this article and posted it on Facebook?

    Reply
  • Jay P October 1, 2013, 8:43 pm

    Excellent article! I would also add that most of the programming is NOT news, its politically based debate around current events! You would be surprised how many people watch the afternoon cable chat shows believing that they are watching news programming. If they have 3 to 5 talking heads debating a politcal issue – its NEVER news!

    Reply
    • MoneyAhoy October 5, 2013, 7:37 am

      Exactly! More and more it is just opinion spouting!

      Reply
  • EB in AZ October 1, 2013, 9:38 pm

    Even though I haven’t broken free of a pretty intense news habit, I basically agree with what MMM says here. I used to use the line about “If you don’t follow the news, how will you know who to vote for?” but then one day I realized that there is absolutely no need for me to follow day-to-day developments in order to know who to vote for. I can tell you that my vote in the next election would be absolutely no different whether I followed the news of the shut-down or not. (Although my daughter is out of work at the moment, a seasonal biology project that had two weeks left to run dropped unfinished, because of the shut-down.)

    But I think it is one thing to say that we don’t all need to be following the news of the shutdown, and another thing entirely to suggest, as a couple of commenters do, that the reason the shut-down is irrelevant is “Who needs the government anyway?” I believe that even admirably self-reliant Mustachians derive all kinds of benefits from having a functioning government, as much as we might take them for granted.

    Reply
    • Melissa Taylor October 3, 2013, 8:34 am

      For the longest time we used our tv only to play pandora and youtube video’s. We finally did ourselves a service and got rid of the thing and replaced it with fancy speakers. Everyone gives us a hard time about it. They also give us a hard time about reusing pickle bottles as perfectly good drinking glasses. What is right for one person may not be suitable for another. Anger and judgement is not necessary.

      Reply
      • Carolina October 5, 2013, 7:35 am

        Melissa,

        You’re doing great. You just need new friends;).

        Reply

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