Rules for News Consumption

Ways to keep up with the times while staying sane.

The world is an exhausting place. Keeping up with it is just not possible without losing your mind.

The last few weeks have been very trying for some people. A lot has happened that has made a lot of people very angry. And some people are pleased by recent events. For the record, I think just about everything the president has done has been awful and damaging to the United States in ways that we cannot fully comprehend.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about today. I want to talk news. News is important, no doubt, but also very exhausting. Consuming news is important to keeping up with the world, but it is also kind of dangerous. Below are the simple rules that I follow. These are not perfect rules by any means, and I don’t follow them perfectly, but they help keep me sane in this weird world we live in.

Rule #1: Slow Down

This is the biggest rule and the one that makes life the easiest. Slow down your news consumption. Don’t go looking for new things multiple times per day. Don’t go looking every day. Weekly is best. You get to keep up without being flooded and you let things settle a little. This also allows you to focus on what is actually important and filter out what is just filler.

Side note: 24-hour news networks are pure evil. Don’t watch CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, or any of them. Their goal is to keep you watching (you know, for the ads) and they do that by making everything seem super important or try to turn stories into things they are not. Remember, politics is not entertainment.

Rule #2: Context is King

The previous rule will help make this easier. When possible, get some context on the situation. It could be some background on those involved, or some idea of where this may lead to in the future. Some random news event is never a single thing in a vacuum.

Context helps on multiple levels. One of the best ways is that it helps you filter out things that might seem important at the time that are really just not. This is where the magic of the previous rule comes into play. Giving a news item some time allows it to fade if it’s not actually important. It also allows various news organizations more time to add context to a story.

Rule #3: Politics is NOT Entertainment

Ok, this isn’t really a rule, but it should be said as much as possible.

Rule #4: Don’t Share Without Looking

I hate that the term “fake news” got spread and used the way it did since the election. But I have another term for it that seems to be a better fit: bullshit. Don’t spread bullshit. Don’t share bullshit. Are you unsure if an article is bullshit? Google it and find out.

Idea for a Chrome extension: replace “fake news” with “bullshit”.

Once you think of “fake news” (and propaganda, etc.) as bullshit, you can start treating it like it. Then you can keep your various social feeds (and others) free of bullshit.

Rule #5: Relax

If the world is getting you down, focus on something else for a while. When things get bad, I retreat to F1, tech, and games. They are significantly less depressing and more fun. Just don’t forget to come back. Being part of the world is tough, but we need everyone to be involved or it just falls apart.

I hope these can help some people handle the fire-hose of news that is the modern world. They don’t cover everything and I break them from time to time, but I think they can help.