Until recently, I fostered a nest of newspaper apps on all my devices and maintained a stable of subscriptions, with those small individual amounts leeching out of my account and forming a steady flow from my treasury to those of Mssrs. Murdoch, Pearson and their ilk. I noticed recently that iTunes makes it particularly difficult to find and manage the subscription side, which irked me and led me to suspect that I was being played. That feeling started a process of reviewing my entire digital engagement and asking myself how much of what I engage with is necessary, helpful and of my own free will. The resut is a radical and accelerating cull, a process I began at the end of last year. In particularly in the light of my experience over the last days, in which almost very journal succumbed to the urge to publish its own summary of the Highlights of 2016, all, without exception, rubbish, I am questioning the value and sense of much of my digital news consumption.
Here are my reasons:
1. My head is becoming cluttered with more unnecessary and unprocessed stuff than at any previous time in my life. We neither need nor appreciate the volume of news and opinion that we are confronted with. The best (and probably only) defense is to turn the tap off.
2. If an event doesn't impact me directly and if I can't or am not expected to make a contribution to solving the problem, I don't need to know about it. It's that simple.
3. I am getting much more comfortable with acknowledging my ignorance on a vast range of topics from global warming via russian foreign policy to the current state of the american political system. I am also unwilling to hear the latest opinions on [pick your subject of the day] simply regurgitated in conversations and hope to avoid any tendency to parrot op-eds by not reading them in the first place. This makes me lousy company in bars, pubs and at certain dining tables, but I can live with that.
4. I am deliberately building a fence around my digital footprint and my digital exposure. We ( I say 'we' - I had nothing to with it at all. If it had left to me, we would still be talking through tin cans with string) have built a phenomenal technological platform in the last 15 years and there are very few areas of our lives that remain unaffected by it, such that merely writing that appears to be a cliché. However, for all its benefits, we are also becoming aware of its insidious dangers, not the least of which is the slow frazzling of our brains (and those of our children) and our ability to concentrate and process complex information. Cancelling all my digital news subscriptions seems like a good place to start building the fence.
5. The corollary of my general ignorance, is the ability to drill deep into the areas of my life in which I have a degree of expertise, enthusiasm and an ability to contribute to the solving of specific problems. None of which requires me to consume daily bucketfuls of news. I don't need to know where the dollar is or was or will be; I don't need to be terrified or outraged by images of children dying in Aleppo nor do I need to know what the European Central Bank is plotting or which bank they will or will not save this week or indeed anything that is outside my sphere of competence or even influence.
6. So much news is bad news. I don't mean unpleasant or upsetting. I mean bad, as in incompetent, rotten, fabricated, misappropriated, and simply wrong. Stuffing my head with real facts is bad enough: the thought of allowing unfiltered garbage into my severely limited CPU is terrifying. Better to turn the tap off at source.
7. I don't want to be manipulated any more than is unavoidably necessary. I also want to think for myself in the areas of my life, I deem worthy of contemplation and in which I wish to form an opinion. In recent days, every newspaper and television channel has found it necessary to produce a catalogue of Highlights of 2016, producing a month-by-month playbook of the year. Every single one I came across, chose to devote over two thirds of their newsworthy items list to murderous attacks by radical islamist terrorists on western cities (no mention of any of the atrocities perpetrated by the same groups in Africa and the Middle East) and to dearly departed singers and thespians, with the rest of the space being divvied up between Mr. Trump and Mr. Brexit. Brain research shows quite clearly what sort of information causes our synapses to light up on an MRI scan and none of it is useful, helpful or uplifting, but it makes for great entertainment and sales. I neither want nor need it.
As the New Year starts I am launching this Good & Prosper to write about and discuss topics focused on prosperity, strategies for success and on personal leadership and dissecting my own experiences and those of my friends and readers. I will be writing a great deal about focus and uncluttering is the first big step towards making progress on that score. Good luck and my best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year in 2017.