Stop Overdosing on Celebrity Gossip, The News, and Low Quality Information

How much time do you spend consuming information that you have no intention of taking action on or that you don’t care deeply about?

For example: the nightly news cycle of local crimes, the endless stream of Facebook and Twitter updates, celebrity gossip, reality TV shows, Buzzfeed articles. The list goes on.

In this age of information overload, your life can be filled with irrelevant or unnecessary information in an instant.

And here’s the main problem:

After a while, these information sources start to become normal. Pretty soon, you’re logging onto Facebook because of the fear of missing out on “something.” You turn on the news or check CNN, not because you care about a particular topic, but merely out of habit. You watch tonight’s reality TV show because that’s what you always do on Thursdays at 8pm.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for learning and soaking up new information. After all, education is one of the master keys to the universe. And staying up-to-date on important stories can help shape your worldview and make you a good global citizen.

But it is becoming dangerously easy to consume low quality information and convince yourself that it’s normal and good, when it isn’t helping you live a better life at all.

Circles of Concern vs. Circles of Control

In Steven Covey’s best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he covers the difference between Circles of Concern and Circles of Control.

Circles of Concern are the things that you often waste time and energy worrying about, but that you have little to no control over. Meanwhile, Circles of Control are the things that you can influence in your daily life.

As an example, the vast majority of news stories — war and terrorism, the economy and stock prices, celebrity gossip and political scandal — fall squarely in the Circle of Concern. They can easily soak up your time and energy, but you have virtually no control over those events.

Other examples include getting angry about what someone posted on Facebook, worrying about what other people think about you, or wishing your kids would make better choices (a valid wish, but still outside of your control).

As you can see in the image below, worrying about Circles of Concern is a hallmark of reactive people, while focusing on Circles of Control is a trait of proactive people.

circle-concern-control
Graphic by James Clear. (Note: I modeled this image off of the graphics in this article written by Pete at Mr. Money Mustache.)

Notice that by eliminating or reducing your Circle of Concern, you have more time and energy to put towards your Circle of Control. That means you have more mental space to use for creating art, starting a business, having meaningful conversations, or otherwise contributing to the world around you.

On the flip side, the heavy barrage of information in our society can easily push most of your time and energy into Circles of Concern if you let it. What about the war? What about the economy? What about the choices of XYZ politician? If you’re constantly surrounded by these topics it’s easy to let them capture your time and energy — even if you realize that you can’t do very much about them.

When you’re overdosing on information that you can’t act on it’s easy to see why people say things like “it’s a messed up world out there” or “somebody needs to fix it.” Why make an effort when everything seems out of your control?

Create Space, So That You Can Create

Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions.
—Marcus Aurelius, from his book Meditations

Time and energy that is wasted consuming is time and energy that can’t be spent creating.

I’ve written previously about the importance of making things and contributing to the world around you. You learn more, experience more, and contribute more to life by doing.

It’s better to step into the arena and get your ass handed to you — whether that means starting a business and failing, creating art that is terrible, writing something nobody reads, or taking a risk that is important to you — than it is to passively sit and consume information.

It’s great to learn new skills, follow story lines that are important to you, and become an engaged and thoughtful citizen, but sadly most consumption doesn’t fall into those categories. Most of us (myself included) have a handful of information sources that we could eliminate from our lives with no significant impact whatsoever.

What Kind of Food is Your Brain Eating?

News is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind.
—Rolf Dobelli

The problem with most news, gossip, and link-bait titled articles online is that they are filled with surface level information. Your life isn’t better off for reading them and you’re rarely better informed because of them.

Of course, there are plenty of wonderful sources of information out there. The New York Times has many fantastic writers on various topics. As a personal example, I love learning about medicine and I often read Atul Gawande’s lengthy articles in The New Yorker. But I don’t browse the internet passively and stumble upon his articles. I seek them out with intention and purpose.

And that is the main point…

The world doesn’t need more people who mindlessly digest whatever information is around. What the world needs are people who learn with purpose, who take action on the things that are important to them, and who seek out high quality information as a way to spark creativity — not as an excuse to consume even more.

What type of food are you feeding your brain? You wouldn’t want to stuff your body with low quality food. Why cram your mind with low quality thoughts?

Where to Go From Here

Not all news is bad. For example, learning about the latest war can make me grateful to live in a stable society and keep my life in perspective. But if we’re being honest, there is a lot of information that fills our daily lives, clogs our minds, and prevents us from creating, building, sharing, and experiencing more important things.

Most of the information you come across in your daily life — the news stories, the social media updates, the television shows — isn’t going to change the choices you make. Instead of sitting around and consuming whatever is readily available, challenge yourself to make more conscious choices about what you consume and how you consume it.

Do you really need social media apps on your phone? Or will you be just fine checking Facebook and Twitter when you get home?

Is it necessary to turn on the same news program every night? Are you living a better life because of watching it?

If something isn’t benefitting you, then eliminate it.

And if you do care about something like the latest political scandal, then be intentional about getting quality information on that topic. And more importantly, take some action on it. It’s great to be smart, but it’s better to be helpful.

References
1. Hat tip to Mr. Money Mustache for originally writing about a low information diet and the Circle of Control. 2. Thanks to Rolf Dobelli for his report on avoiding the news.

73 Comments

  1. Clay Johnson wrote a book called the Information Diet where he said much of what you’ve written here James. He also gave a useful approach to weaning yourself off the news. Well worth a read, it’s fairly short.

    • Love your articles but I take offense to this latest one. :) I work hard as a TV News Producer. I pride myself on combing through all the garbage out there to find news stories that will make an impact on our viewers. The “celebrity news” shows are a waste of time to me, but to each his own.

      • Hi Erin, this is not in defense of James, but more an offering of a different perspective. Given your position and industry, most of what is found in the “Circle of Concern” of the average consumer, I would argue, belongs in your “Circle of Control” under the categories: Where you work, What you read, Leadership positions you hold, and Articles and books you write. Just thought for food.

      • Hi Erin, It’s always good to know if there is a serial killer loose in the neighborhood or if a product is being recalled. News can be beneficial information. You may be spot on with producing this type of information. KUDOS! I took the article to lean more towards the ‘stuff’ that sells. The information that won’t affect our lives. Stories that keep you in a mental prison. Give me news that feeds my soul, makes me a better person and enlightens me without bogging me down and I’m there.

      • Erin, 95% of TV news pieces are generated from press releases, publicists and for entertainment value (tune in). Are you saying that your stories are in the 5%?

    • I completely agree with your advice on “news fasting” James. I’ve practiced this as has my son who follows a spiritual and educational path of life. Knowing how distractions in the media overwhelm and make news headlines only day(s) at a time, it can definitely be self-defeating to the goal-oriented and “doers” of today.

      Thanks for spreading the word and hitting it “right on the head.”

      P.S. Got rid of my TV over six years ago, and don’t miss it a bit.

      • As did I, about five plus years ago. Never looked back and have zero regrets about saying goodbye to the unending onslaught of TV news bytes and obnoxious, interwoven adverts. It’s that much easier to filter out unnecessary radio news blasts, as well. If there’s something truly crucial I need to pay attention to, I have a gold mine of friends and family who will kindly call or text me to inform, and they know I appreciate a low-sensationalism approach!

  2. I love this article, James. I’ve been thinking exactly the same thing with all the news of political problem and the government shutdown.

    I used to spend hours everyday keeping up with the news, watching shows about the news, and debating the news with others. Until I came across a post by Leo from ZenHabits that made me realize how much social, physical and mental energy and time we waste consuming the news. Since then I completely stopped following politics or watching any news.

    It turned out to be one of the best decisions in my life. Since then I’ve put all that extra energy and time into productive things that will make a difference in people’s lives. I hope others can read this article and go through the same experience.

    Thanks for sharing James!

  3. I love this. That’s an amazing graphic too!

    I have no interest in the news. Murder after murder, theft after theft. These things have been going on forever, and watching another instance of it is not going to help me, or help me help them. I have a few focus strategies that I write about on Deep Existence, but the main goal of focusing is to choose one objective, and then the first small step of that objective, and then commit to refocusing as needed.

    If you’re focused toward one thing, then you’re consequently not focusing on everything else, including facebook. That said, Facebook gets me all the time. :-) I allow it some, because I know I need breaks from being 1,000% productive. So my strategy is part structured, part feeling. If I’m starting to feel burnt out, I take a break. But even then, leisure time can be unproductive if your activities don’t relax and refresh you, so I find that it helps to have strategy and structure with leisure time too.

  4. Good article and good comments. I got the tip a few years ago to not worry about the constant stream of fluff on the “continuous news” and life’s much better since. As Mike suggests, the emotional and mental energy you conserve is available for you and the people around you. Thanks

  5. Hey Thanks James.
    Just observed my daily routine.
    Am doing many of things you listed.
    Will be more aware from now one !!

  6. James, I enjoy your articles and the challenges they often give me. I found your fasting article earlier this week very interesting, but wondered just how your plan of only eating between the hours of approximately 1 and 8 PM each day differs from someone that just skips breakfast? In reading the article, I felt there was a difference but could not quite grasp it.

    • Steve, the difference is that if you keep it to an 8 hour window your body is without food for 16 hours and goes into a fasted state therefore burns more fat. Someone who just misses breakfast may eat more later in the day and never go a longer period of time without food – there were 2 other articles linked at the bottom which were well worth reading.

  7. I love it! I thought I was the only one who felt this way. I gave up pretty much all forms of news about 7 years ago, and you know, I don’t think I’ve missed a single thing that I needed to know about. Either I’ll hear someone talking about it, I’ll catch a mention of it on Facebook or Twitter, or I’ll hear it on the radio. This was inspired by my father-in-law. He devoted around 5 hours a day to the news every day of his life – reading several papers and watching multiple news shows a day. Over the course of 80 years, that is a massive investment of time and for what? I can’t see that it ever created any kind of benefit in his life. If I’m going to invest that kind of time in something, I would rather have it be something positive that is going to bring a benefit to me.

  8. Thanks for the words of wisdom. As someone who makes a living as a graphic designer for a major cable news corporation, I battle with this everyday. I’ll be on vacation internationally for the next 2 weeks, so it’s probably a good time to focus on my Circle of Control and feeding my mind more high quality information and less of the sugary fluff.

  9. Another awesome article James! Great food for thought and love the graphic!

    I really love what you’re creating on this site – authentic, quality information that keeps me on track every week. I’m always trying to improve and tweak stuff every few weeks. Although I don’t watch TV, it’s easy to still waste time on the internet. When I’m procrastinating I need to remind myself of someone who’s 80 years old and has 1 day to live screaming “don’t waste the present moment, your time is limited!” Picked this up from an excellent book called The Tools.

  10. Right on once again James.

    Clifford Nass, a communications professor at Stanford University, believes that a consequence of the prominence of digital media (the nice, small tidbits of information thrown at us all the time rather than a deep understanding of the situations of other people) in our lives is that we are losing our ability to empathize with others. According to Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind – and I agree with him in this respect – empathy is one of the six fundamental characteristics that will determine what companies and people flourish in the coming (and already upon us) ‘Conceptual Age’. So mastering our own technology overuse (feeding our brains better) may be essential for our success.

    Cool stuff to think about. Now, just master the habits to get there!

    be well

  11. James, I’m usually a fan of your work, and I appreciate the intent of this article. Spending hours wasting time on frivolous news, gossip, or other useless content is counterproductive. I do think though it’s important to know what’s going on in the world.

    I’m not interested in what celebrity is dating who, but that doesn’t stop me from scanning the entertainment headlines for ten minutes daily. I believe it’s important to keep abreast of popular culture, and current events.

    Part of doing that correctly in my view is using a diverse set of resources. You like the New York times, but if that is your only news source you end up getting information filtered through that publications personal bias.

    Living in the information age requires the ability to self-regulate your time appropriately. I don’t think that means you should ignore the day-to-day news of the world though.

  12. Wow! That’s a totally new thing to say to me!

    Until now, I’ve always heard people telling me I should keep informed, thing that I’m always skipping, partly because I get aware of the most important while speaking to others, and partly because I just don’t take the time to do it. I find this article awesome, I’ll give a though about focused information finding, that can still be interesting. :-)

    Thanks a lot!

  13. Great post! I’ve also been on the information diet for the past four years. I don’t read the news, I don’t have a TV, but I read massive amounts of books and blogs on the topics that interest me. Watching the news and being informed is just a voluntary agreement, to give away your self-control and sense of power, and hand it to the mass media, where you become easily manipulated. You become a sheep in the herd, where you are forced to believe that nothing is under your control and that the world is the scariest, darkest place, where opportunities don’t exist. And these feelings are exactly the opposite of what reality can be, once you take control over your life and your food- both food for the body and food for the mind! :))

    Ines

  14. Great article. So true, we need to focus on the important info to “our world” and not get lost in the gossip, media blitz, and/or politics of the day. Makes you think what is going to be your impact to the world. We can do great stuff if you think about it. A new or improved product, a happy and productive child, or improving your mental and physical self. Can’t do that from the couch.

  15. I really appreciate the line that you said it best – “It’s better to step into the arena and get your ass handed to you… than it is to passively sit (and consume information)”. Great motivational line, and your graphic is visually captivating. GREAT article. Thank you!

  16. Nice article! I always felt a sense of guilt for not actively following the news (even when I did an internship as a (motion) graphic designer at a news company.. teehee). This article is what I always felt but never really thought about and now I can actually justify my behaviour.

    Nowadays I think it is much easier to act within the circle of control and eliminate the circle of concern than it was when we had no internet and still had TV. Of course, there is a lot of extra distractions added to the circle of concern, Facebook has been mentioned many times before, but we can actively search for information that does interest us and can enrich our lives. In the article is also stated that eliminating the circle of concern gives you more time to make art, but I sometimes feel that a subject in your circle of concern can be a good seed for something you make. Something you can take into your circle of control.

    However I must say that we build up information streams easily and get used to them, and start to ignore them in the same way we get used to and ignore the news. For example, my Facebook stream is cluttered with posts from my liked pages, telling me things that I’m sort of interested in, but since there’s such a big stream of information I easily scroll through and get bored with it. Might as well ignore it then :)

  17. Great article James! Thanks for posting!

    I must admit it can be difficult for me to let go of the obsessive and negative media machine that bombards me every day. Especially when one of my projects is about to be published and a fear of rejection arises. It’s interesting how the mind prefers to settle for pointless consumption as a way of avoiding pain. But if I push through the pain and take control of my reality and it feels so awesome! Like you say in your article, it’s so much more worthwhile devoting our energy to actions that positively influence us and those around us.

  18. Hey James!,

    Like the idea of the article. I ditched the TV and the news long back. What I do with my Facebook feed is tailor it around only those conversations and mentors and few friends I have so that what shows up on my news feed isn’t bullshit but projects, and upcoming projects of all the people I’m connected to all over the globe. I also run weekly mastermind groups along with Skype calls to support each other in a project I call — The Best Year Yet! leveraging each other’s location and resources to get stuff done for each other!

  19. If I may take a contrarian view…

    There are many things in our life that we cannot control but affect our daily lives. This Government Shutdown is one of them. My wife is a Federal worker and because of the uncertainty surrounding the Shutdown (when will it end? when will workers be allowed to work? will they be paid? when?)it is important for us t stay on top of the news about it.

    In fact, the Shutdown is the perfect real life metaphor for how things beyond our control (Congress and the shifting political whims of its members) affect the real lives of real people. As little as you or I can do anything about it, staying informed about it is essential.

    I agree, reality shows or who’s dating whom are not useful. I would argue, though, that “entertainment”, however you might want to describe it, is as important as creating bad art, writing unread books or starting businesses that fail.

    Sticking one’s head in the sand isn’t useful. Yes, seeking out interesting, in-depth pieces about things that interest you (Atul Gawande in the New Yorker) is a good practice. Ditto reading full length books. That does not preclude consuming the small tidbits found on Facebook, Twitter (which are usually links to larger articles) or blog posts.

    • This is what I came in here to say. While I wholeheartedly agree that reality TV, many of the news stories, and pop culture/Facebook posts, etc…are generally a waste of time, it is still essential to stay informed of big topics that affect us, whether they are in our direct control or not.

      The government and our rights require us to be informed. We may not have direct control over things – but if we give up any knowledge because it’s out of our “circle of control” — we’ve given up everything.

      It sounds like hyperbole, but that was my reaction to the post.

  20. Hey James! you have written superb article. I needed this type of motivation because I am a Facebook addict and couldn’t stop using it. Now I have realized that consuming day to day news and information I got nothing but wasted the time. I have decided to stop reading/watching news and Facebook and devote myself towards my studies. THANKS for the helpful article.

  21. Thanks you, James. I’m literally crying after reading this. This past little while I’ve been reading about the plight of women around the globe and thinking, “What can I do?” and not coming up with an answer. It’s paralyzed me, because I’m trying to work within my circle of concern, and not my circle of control.

    I’ll still read the local paper daily, but I think I need to concentrate on what I CAN do, even if sometimes it doesn’t seem to be enough. If that’s all any of us does, the problems will start to go away. If everyone spends their time paralyzed with worry, the problems will only get bigger.

    On to action!

  22. One of my favorite articles. Too many people are caught up in mental masturbation from allowing things they have no control over to take over their time. I see this every time I open an ‘OMG’ political email from an unsuspecting friend. Thank you for sharing this article. It’s one I ‘will’ be sharing with a lot of people.

  23. Excellent article! A reminder of what’s important in life. Now the trick is to get the people in your home to agree. I guess at times it’s best to just “go to my room”. Negative information overload is something I always try to curb, which often means turning off those around you! Thanks again.

  24. Thank you for your post. Moderation in all things. While it is necessary to be informed on current events to an extent, it is also important to focus on what one can control or at least have impact on.

    Life is short and I have found very easy to waste time on things beyond my control, at the expense of doing something that would have a real impact.

    One can’t be reminded enough.

  25. Great post, this has been on my mind a lot lately. When I look at the information I consume, majority of it does not help me accomplish things in my life. A lot of it is inspirational material, which can easily become an addiction on it’s own. Though it’s not all bad. There are certain people on youtube and twitter that I follow who I feel enrich my life.

    A related topic I’ve been considering is – how much do our personal information streams influence our states of mind? If the people you spend personal time with have a direct influence on your lifestyle and outlook, then do the people we follow online have a similar influence?

  26. This article jumped out at me and gave me insight into my overall feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction. Like a moth drawn to a lightbulb, I have been a self-described “news junkie” for many years; intrigued by the latest political shenaningans, foreign conflict, and injustice. I would end up being depressed for much of the day. Voila..this is what the 24/7 news cycle wants to create in us meanwhile underplaying news that can affect the choices we make. Piled upon that is the incessant barrage of navel-gazing, superficiality, and negativity on Facebook. Thanks James for reminding me it is not just OK to avoid the media barrage including that of social media; but to accomplish anything or do something self-fulfilling it is necessary to shrink this exposure as much as possible.

  27. James

    You hit the nail on the head. I need to clean up and get straight what is really important in my life, too. I agree we can waste so much time on junk information and we can’t get that time back. So much of this so-called information is false and what does that do to our belief system?

    Thank you.

  28. Good day brother.

    I have listened to the audio book multiple times and have gradually implemented the principles into everyday life. This article was very inspiring and a nice refresher of the principles one needs to practice in order to live a joyful life.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

    Much love!

  29. This concept saved my marriage! For years my husband would automatically turn on the radio first thing in the morning, even before coffee. We would be dashing around the house on our crazy get-to-work schedules, but didn’t realize that the news was adding to the stress. Yeah, it was NPR but still… we didn’t have a single peaceful moment at the important start of our day, and would be snapping at each other over minor things that could quickly escalate to door slamming exits. Many a morning we’d drive off steaming, wondering why the heck we stayed married.

    One day my husband was yelling to me from the bedroom about not finding socks or something equally “vital,” and I asked him to turn down the radio so I could hear what he was saying, fercryingoutloud. I confess I did not use the nicest of tones. But at the same time it was a real ah-ha moment, almost like a beam of light breaking through the clouds to the sound of a heavenly chorus. We both paused, aware of the sudden calm of a radio-free moment, and in those precious seconds just knew we had to change. No, it was not an overnight miracle transformation–it took work–but we look back and realize that turning off the radio that morning was the start of it all. Now we don’t “consume” any radio or television at all and only glance at on-line headlines maybe every other day and still feel as informed about current events as we need to be. And we start every morning with five or ten minutes of watching the sky and the wildlife out our bedroom window, and saying how grateful we are to have our one precious life together.

  30. I agree, James. I used to spend hours following politics and the news. I was very informed, but I also wasted a lot of energy on things I couldn’t control. And I think some of it was an ego trip wanting to know more than the next person. I still stay informed, but in far less time and I carefully pick and choose where I get my information.

    I have friends who stress over every disaster, every crime, every Court TV show. It definitely colors their outlook and inhibits their enjoyment of life.

    • Deborah,

      You made a significant point when you said “I think some of it was an ego trip wanting to know more than the next person.” I come from a long line of new junkies and spent time soaking up the news to keep up with my family members. Your reminder of why I was so focused on the news really hit me, that it was a way to “compete” with siblings, to be the first one to bring up an unique news topic. When I read the article by James, I looked at the junk TV I was watching (supposedly “true crime”) and snapped it off. I enjoy reading more than TV, so why don’t I do more of it?

  31. Thanks for your article. I think reading news and keeping with friends are important but to avoid its drawback which is wasted time, being selective and disciplined are the keys. So here’s my suggestion:

    Twitter, Facebook, and reading news in general specially via feed readers are the sources of the wasted time. We can deactivate them, but that’s not the solution for most of us.

    I think by creating lists in Facebook and Twitter and putting the people to the list who are really inspiring and informative and have the similar interests to us, and reading them in a specific time, we can keep up and avoide time wasting.

    Regarding the news I guess using an app called Zite can really help. You can add your interests(as the circle of concerns) and it searchs throughout the Internet and finds the most popular stories related to those interests. (It’s like hiring someone who knows you well for searching the internet to find what really matters to you) also for the things that aren’t in your routine interest but are hot in that specific time/day, you can search its keywords, and get all the top stories.

    So by using lists and Zite in a disciplined manner I guess we can handle the information overload and avoid wasting time.

  32. Thanks for the great article, James. These ideas are life-changing! I have a ring that I wear daily with a shortened version of the Serenity Prayer inscribed on it, so I never forget this important idea: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

  33. As always, great article! You really know how to speak for what I try to express to other, ever since the first article I’ve read from you. It’s great to read from such a like minded blogger. Cheers again, James.

  34. Well written. I’m a big fan of Coveys 7 Habits an circle of influence. I realize when I’m traveling for a week or two at a time that I never watch the news and I never miss it. If something is important it finds me. I buy in to the idea we should be more deliberate in the info we digest. Just as deliberate training is important , deliberate information digestion is key.

  35. Great article! I’m a recovering newsaholic. Being a great believer in balance, however, I stay informed by following headlines, and going deeper when something really matters. Also, following people in my profession who truly have something to say, instead of following celebrities and talking heads, keeps me constantly moving forward instead of treading quicksand!

  36. As I’m currently dealing with depression and anxiety issues I find it helps a lot to try and take more action and to cut out all of the negative news stories. My favourite type of news is usually about the achievements of others as it’s positive and inspiring, but unfortunately I’ve found myself having to sit through stories about war and murder to get to them. Knowing about all of the bad things in the world that we have no control over doesn’t help our anxieties or mood very much. I dislike a lot of reality Tv and celebrity gossip too because it mostly feels a bit pointless and shallow to me. I like to ask if it’s adding to my life at all before I engage with something. It is difficult though, especially when you’re living with others who have the tv on a lot just waiting to suck you in as you pass by. Some people also seem to have a very negative attitude towards the idea of learning/reading in your spare time as if it’s not very cool.

  37. Guilty as charged! For me, it has become an addiction – mainly information and political issues. As I digest it all, I feel less and less relevant and more and more confused about what my role is in this complex world. I vacillate between wanting to live as simply as possible, enjoying the good things that life has to offer AND/OR being a warrior with a deep responsibility to challenge the evil in the world. Lately, the latter wins and generally consumes me in the process. Deep down, I know that the answer is to find balance between the two worlds. But, living in such a divisive society, with some very toxic people making decisions for the rest of us, it is hard to not see only black and white sometimes.

    Thanks for the wake-up call! I’m printing this one!

  38. Another awesome read James!

    And great reminder, I have a bad habit of consuming news for the sake of it, and this is why I feel so mentally drained all the time! Back to work on my Circle of Control! Love the graphics btw, keep them coming!

  39. Thanks, James, for the gentle bop on the noggin. It is easy for us to forget that our inner person needs good nutrition in order to thrive, just like our outward person.

  40. Hi James,

    Thank you for this article because at its heart, this is the message of the utmost importance. It is the essence of why we should be taking responsibility for what we are thinking and feeling because it is reflected and magnified out into the world. Our focus keeps us locked in place and/or expanded beyond our wildest expectations.

    Quantum mechanics tells us that all creation at its most essential is consciousness! Our consciousness within the grand consciousness of All That Is, are we reflecting peace, respect, and acceptance, or not?

    Do we get to think whatever we like? Yes, we do. Bear in mind, however, that our thoughts and the strong feelings behind them affect every single thing that exists. Our care and concern or the lack of it, our joy and gratitude or the lack of it, and our love for life and all it offers or the lack of it, affects every aspect of our being.

    Our world is a reflection of what is going on in us individually. Let it be the most respectful of living inspired and inspiring life.

    Respectfully,

    Joan Belle

  41. TV is not the culprit, the internet is.

    Superb article,but I am sure the news addicts will get defensive and say how they need the net for work, etc.

    The only thing worse than wasting hours on news, gossip, and sport sites are the commenters who have a huge addiction and feel they can control others through this action. Many post over 100s of comments on every story, every day.

  42. As a busy undergraduate premed student, I schedule my “news” reading at the exact time every day. At night when I eat dinner, I will stroll through my twitter feed and select articles of my interest to read. I feel like this is proactive considering eating is a passive activity.

  43. Very solid advice at the individual level. My only concern is that if *everyone* does this, it seems likely we will allow the assholocracy to finish destroying the biosphere while we all stay focused on maximizing our own individual happiness and wellbeing. We have already allowed a simply incredible amount of environmental harm to occur, alongside no end of undeserved suffering for those unlucky enough to live in the tropics, or anywhere near a major industrial plant operating with the usual systemic regulatory and governance failures.

    There’s this idea that we elect politicians whose job it is to think about the bigger picture, but it’s abundantly clear that after getting elected they mostly tend to stay focused on whatever it is they think is most likely to (a) get them re-elected, and (b) improve their acceptance and status within their party. Anyone who does *not* do these things will tend to not be there after the next election. They will also tend to react, collectively and individually, to messaging from lobbyists and the wealthy individuals and interest groups that support them. The US is the most obvious case but it’s happening everywhere.

    Thus so long as the rest of us stay focused on our “circle of control” and ignore stuff that clearly has a very low chance of affecting anything – like voting – we will collectively manage to make everything worse.

    So while it makes perfect sense for individuals to focus on their circle of control and I’m trying to do more of that myself, I think it’s worth pointing out that the circle of concern should not be *entirely* avoided, or at the very least, we should refrain from criticizing those who choose to spend some serious time, money and/or attention there.

    Unfortunately, those with excess time, money and attention seem to mostly be the ones seeking to criticize what they dimly perceive to be “the other side”, having listened to far too much self-reinforcing bullshit over the years. To be clear, that’s mostly the professional spinmeisters, the GOP diehards and the Tea Party. Almost everyone else has either been driven from the arena by the never ending flow of vitriol and bullshit, or they simply found better things to do with their time. After all: http://xkcd.com/386

    It really does make sense to, as you say, avoid the news, and Facebook memes, and etc, because it’s mostly low quality information, leading to what has been appropriately called Infobesity. There hasn’t been a concerted effort to help people tell the good stuff from the crap, and in fact any regulatory agencies responsible for that sort of thing have no doubt been gutted procedurally and/or financially by politicians backed by well funded lobbying campaigns paid for partly by the people who benefit from selling cheap calories or cheap kilobytes at inflated prices to confused consumers, partly by the people who fear what might happen if the masses woke up an realized what’s been done to them, partly by those who think Jesus will be back soon to punish all the sinners and this is what really matters, and partly by the people who just pathologically can’t think of anyone but themselves, and are thus the best placed to survive and thrive within the current state of play. Yay capitalism!

    On the other hand, it appears that individually rational decisions will inevitably lead to a collective meltdown, and possibly quite soon, so I pray a degree of irrational hope and collective thoughtfulness somehow manages to catch on alongside everyone pursuing a more rationally individualist and mercenary approach to their existence. At least you didn’t elect Romney. Perhaps there’s *some* hope?

    Having said all that, those of us inclined to think big picture sometimes need reminding to focus on sorting our own shit out first, and the folks inclined to think narrowly are something of a mixed blessing when they attempt to interact with politics in particular, and encouraging them to focus on themselves isn’t exactly necessary but isn’t likely doing much harm either – it might even help them avoid emailing all their friends with another copy of the idiot right wing meme de jour.

    On balance what you’re doing here is pretty great James, keep it up.

  44. Many years ago I ceased watching the news, or picking through a newspaper, after it occurred to me that if an item of importance hit the media, then my friends would alert me, or that I would hear it in passing. My Mother’s addiction to it served as my benchmark. In the recent year, I came to the point where I now eschew FB because of the same sort of thing happening in that forum – political agendas with commercials and endless commentary. I am in your camp, Sir, and happily.

    Truly,

    Peter

  45. Thank You!

    I get endless grief from folks because I have no TV reception (only Netflix) and do not get a paper or magazines. When I had these things, I learned that with my children I was worried all the time because I know of every crime or illness involving children that occurred anywhere in the globe; it was overwhelming! My grandparents did not have this onslaught of instant bad news to deal with. I cut the cord and read more, do more, play tennis more, etc…

    I work in Alzheimer’s research and I can tell you that people who retain their faculties in older age are DOING THINGS and not WATCHING things.The brain needs to be exercised like muscles and learning requires challenging yourself mentally. :)

  46. Circle of Concern should be called Circle of Despair.

    I dropped out of the news cycle after I moved to Chicago and started getting the daily update of innocents killed in drive-bys. I really don’t want to hear about the body they found, etc.

    I only follow celebrity news because it’s so stupidly entertaining and pointless. TMZ, take me away.

  47. Definitely the overload of information is the big problem nowadays. I have been struggling with so much information, in consequence, not finishing my projects. I need to be more selective to achieve my goals…

  48. James,

    Nicely done. This is a great article that captures what I believe many are experiencing. I personally have started to limit how much of this kind of content I consume. The reality is, my time is limited but my attention even more so. All the more reason to cut away the stuff that doesn’t matter.

    Thanks for posting.

  49. You don’t need “Control” to influence directions the world goes. In democratic and market societies what counts is tiny decisions that are made by millions. If a milion of people write e-mail to politicians in a case that they personally don’t control then it definitely counts. If a milion of people boycott a product, write negative comments about it or the opposite – enthusiastically buy it and recommend it to others, then it really influences the market direction.

    Sometimes there’s no need for millions. Sometimes it is enough to contact person in power (who has control over stuff) with a suggestion or solution or even problem description – make them interested in things they perhaps were not aware before. There’s a chance that after informing them they will notice, and start working on a solution.

    So the only things you don’t have control perhaps are the ones that you both don’t contorol personally, and there’s no chance of going with the crowd in the direction you want, and nobody is interested in the questions you ask or problems you inform them about.

  50. James,

    You make a great point, and I simply love the circle of control/ circle of concern. While I won’t say I, “avoid” the news, I DO try to spend as little time as possible worrying over it, for the reasons you stated.

    I think of the serenity prayer. Internet, TV, crime in areas far-far away are all things we CAN’T control. We need to focus on what we can, and keep up with REAL news just enough to be informed on election days.

    -SJ

  51. James,

    I love your post and your articles are fantastic. I am a new follower of your blog. Just wanted to say that I do not watch TV at home just because a lot of the news is depressing. People are always getting hurt and don’t even get me started on the animal cruelty headlines, it’s all so sad. The internet however is a little more difficult for me to control. I am guilty of reading celebrity gossip and clicking on those news headlines that pop up on my screen. Just realized I need to learn to control my brain food.

  52. Thanks James for this eye-opening post.

    Personally I have my own Information Diet regimen. Most of the information I get I take it from these sources:
    – Deep knowledge I get it from Books. Articles, Videos and other informational media are not substitute for Books. I read books for 1-1.5 hours daily, in my area of specialization (i.e. IT consulting/Business Analysis) and in other areas of interest(Mindfulness, Geopolitics, Mind management, Novels, etc).
    – I get the latest IT market news to keep updated with IT industry, from ComputerWorld, or TechCrunch. I might spend 15-30 minutes daily on this.
    – I get the latest scientific discoveries from BBC and Discovery. I might spend 10-15 minutes daily on this.
    – I surf the LinkedIn Today to get the latest management trends (Forbes, Business Insider, Wired, HuffingtonPost, HBR, etc). I might spend 15-30 minutes daily on this.
    – Or, I get the latest posts about Self-development from Buffer Blog, Zen Habits, DailyGood, or Mindful.ord.

    Not to forget some insightful TED talks videos.

    Zaher

  53. Thank you for providing insight into Covey’s Circles of Concern and Control. Time and time again I see articles and blogs reference “The 7 Habits of Highly-Effective People,” and I can assure you that I will be reading it in the very near future.

    I hate to admit it, but as I write this I am tempted to let myself get distracted and log onto Facebook for “just a few minutes.” While I agree with limiting the amount of social media exposure and entertainment news you are exposed to in a day, a week, etc., I do not think it is wise to swear off digesting news altogether. If for no other reasons than to remind us of our global connectedness and that we have it so much better than so much of the world, exposure to news will remain a critical part of my life.

  54. Thank you for this – sent this to my boyfriend who checks out celebrity gossip sites.

    Useful for me as well, great reminder not to waste time on irrelevant info.

  55. James, thank you for your post. I consciously stopped watching the news after the most recent school shooting, about a year ago. The media has become so sensationalized. As a result, and not as much of a conscious decision, I began to phase out radio, newspapers, Facebook, and TV in general (no shows, no movies)…pretty much all media. The time I spend online is extremely focused and purposeful. Sometimes I’m slightly embarrassed by how little I know about current events. But overall, I’m pleased with my new way of like. One other downside is that it can be difficult to find things to talk about, especially at work events when “chit-chat” seems to be necessary. Any advice on career networking when you really have no idea what’s happening in the world? I only recently found out about the government shut down and don’t even know if it’s back up and running. Have I gone too far?
    Jen

  56. Dear James — thanks for all these lessons. I have not been a keen one on news, celebrities and the so so — my husband thinks am weird not to be interested in what is happening in my country. I mostly read novels, articles on medical issues, cookery, community development, knitting and general handwork and taking new lessons as I am now learning to use a computer, help give free knitting and cookery lessons to women and youth… and take in a little of what takes place in the country… and now I have your interesting posts! I almost believed him. Thanks for your article.

  57. Oh, man, I agreed so much with the topic covered by this article I went and marked as read all my unread e-mail, which I was literally “saving” for reading it carefully (and really not reading it at all).

    My brain feels more quite now I don’t have a whole lot of unread e-mail. I should do it more.

  58. Fantastic article, it describes exactly my view on information through media. I haven’t had a TV in my home for 10 years. I simply didn’t buy a new one because soon after it broke down I became aware I did not miss my tv at all. I did not miss the information that came out of it because 99% isn’t useful information that helps me.

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