The No Information Diet



One of my favorite bloggers wrote an article several years ago about “the low information diet”. That article seemed to really touch off some readers who misinterpreted it as celebrating ignorance.

In summation, the article describes a lifestyle in which a person avoids the 24/7 news diarrhea that we all have streaming from our TVs, computers, and smartphones every hour of every day.

Over the past weeks I have begun to embrace an altered form of this lifestyle that I’m calling the “no information diet.”

I accept as a simple reality of my daily existence that the following apply:

  1. Occasionally, big things happen in the world. Wars are begun, protests occur, disasters strike, treaties are signed, and so on.
  2. These big things occur with very low time density. (Major crises happen a few times in a lifetime. This is the third one that I can remember.)
  3. The information stream we have access to is tuned for high resolution view of events: minute-by-minute, second-by-second analysis of everything that happens in excruciating detail. This is terribly out of sync with the time density of history.
  4. My contribution to the historical record is insignificant. I get to vote, maybe write an op-ed and a book, and then my voice will disappear into obscurity, forever.

Unless your job involves directly working in national intelligence or geopolitical strategy, you are in the same position. That includes over 99% of the world. We are the confused children of history, dragged along by the weight of the big events that came before us, and pulled toward the big events that are still to come.

Some of us are more clued into those forces than others. The more clueless among us rage and wail into the void repeating some canned response to the latest crisis.

The poison of our times is high-resolution media. It began with the aforementioned 24/7 diarrhea news. Then it metastasized into social media, so every blathering idiot could contribute to that stream of excrement. Twitter and Facebook create the impression that we’re all “involved” in the crisis of the day. Someone must speak out! We must share our voices! No, no we mustn’t. That’s like telling someone who is lost on a paddleboat in open ocean that they should start paddling against the currents. We need to conserve our energy. The time to chart our own course is not when the storms are raging around us.

I’m not defeatist or callous. I’m realistic. My input into this system is severely limited. I get to press one of two buttons every four years. I get to type into the void. I can put some sentences together into paragraphs and feel accomplished. Occasionally, someone else will read those paragraphs and maybe I’ll get across my point. But I won’t move the compass of history one inch.

For the most part, day to day, I must deal with my own personal affairs. These are the animal needs of my corporeal existence and things pertaining to my sustenance. I need a safe place to live. I need to workout to stay strong and healthy. I need to eat healthy food. I need some camaraderie to satisfy the needs of a social animal.

Everything else falls away from me. “Aren’t you worried about –” No. No, I’m not. “But what if it comes back and –” I don’t care. That’s not my problem. This isn’t Twitter. You don’t need to chime in with your bullshit opinion about complicated matters that, if you were honest, you would admit you have no hope of understanding. “Make sure you check in and –” No thanks. I’m fine right where I am.

So I don’t look at the news. I keep abreast of current events, sure, but I don’t need to hear someone else’s extrapolation of those events. “Just the facts, ma’am.”

All you need for that is YouTube and C-SPAN, an incredibly boring network that has nothing but book reviews and real events like press conferences. C-SPAN makes no effort to feed you one-liners to regurgitate onto Twitter. They just film press events… and then show them to you.

When you switch to the “no information diet”, the first thing you realize is how much dead air the diarrhea news stream is filling. Nothing happens most of the day. Nothing. The affairs of government drag on at a glacial pace. Shifts in geopolitical forces take decades to actually manifest.

If you were to take your cue from the diarrhea news stream, you’d believe that there are many ongoing crises at any moment. Even before the current much more tangible crisis, there was the “climate catastrophe” that is supposed to be looming over us right now. Before that, it was the rainforest burning and the hole in the ozone would destroy all our crops. There was the “epidemic” of school shootings. And let’s not forget terrorism.

All of these crises occupied hundreds and hundreds of hours of airtime.

24/7 news networks and social media companies make money from advertising. They need to fill that time between major events. It’s in their best interest to keep you glued to the TV and rage-tweeting. It’s their job to make you upset but pushing out a never-ending stream of diarrhea.

But you don’t have to consume that poop chute.

Focus on what you can control, starting your own body. Feeling down? I can almost guarantee you’ll feel better if you go for a run or eat a sandwich. Feeling stiff? Find an hour long yoga routine on YouTube and follow along in your bedroom.

Our news sources are high-resolution views of low-resolution events. Take care of yourself by not consuming information. Major developments in ongoing crises will come many days apart. We’ve been conditioned to look for this constant stream of “information” but what we need is no information – until there is something worth reporting.

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