In January of 2011, I wrote that I was going to greatly reduce the time I spend reading about news and (especially) politics and divert that time into my serial obsessions. The idea was that news (especially politics) was generally a downer and had very little to offer me other than sadness and anger. There was nothing I could act upon, other than to be more sad and angry. If I instead spent that time learning something new about music or video or social media or any number of other topics allowed me to put that knowledge to work right away. In that earlier post, I detailed (bullet points and all) the changes I made to steer myself in a more productive direction.
How am I doing with that now?
It was working out great for several months. I would start the day with an article or two about music marketing or learn something new about the software I use for audio or video, and then settle into the day knowing I had already done some small thing to move my work forward. During any break time I had, I would dive into the large list of bookmarks I’ve gathered about multimedia production and pick up some new tidbits. I did the same at all times that I would have reached for a news fix. It helped me in a lot of ways. I didn’t feel stuck–I felt empowered. I knew that whatever I learned that day may not change my whole world, but that after a month or so I could look back and see actual progress. And I did.
At some point I sort of fell off the wagon. While I did a great job of keeping politics off this blog and the other social medias, I did think about it a lot. The events of the presidential primary became so darned entertaining that I got sucked right back in. It was not nearly the same level of saturation as in the past, and I did make progress with my music, but it was still too much. I know it was too much because I have so little to show for it now.
Perhaps I’m doomed to learn that same lesson over and over. BUT things are better now. Really. When the election settled into a “wake me up when it’s time to vote” phase, I saw an opening to shift back to a news-light lifestyle.
I’m also re-learning that I do not need to follow the minutia of the news in order to stay informed. In fact, I barely need to follow it at all. I find that the important news finds me no matter what. I do work in DC, after all. The people around me are very informed. Friends ask “have you heard?” and we have something to talk about. I can check in to the two weekly news programs that I enjoy and hear information that is actually new to me rather than a recap of what I already know. And of course, spending any time on the internet, news is always bubbling up through the social medias.
So now I pause every time my muscle memory goes to tap out “washingtonpost.com” into my browser and try steer by brain towards better nourishment. It feels a little like I’ve had my head above water for the first time in a while. It’s like I’ve moved around some tubes and wires that had fallen into disuse and fashioned them into a positive feedback loop. It feels good.
There is one thing the news consumption habit was good for: it was a habit that involved reading and ingesting new ideas on a regular basis. That is one habit I’m going to keep.