It is at this time of the year that new years resolutions face the difficulty of actually being implemented. If your resolution is to kick the habit of reading so many news, this post is for you.
The obsession with online news is a nasty affliction, as it not only steals our time, but also saps our life energy by filling us with pessimism and a feeling of impending doom. To add insult to injury, our online behavior is monitored all the while with the express intent of making us spend more time reading online news.
The problem here is not really the news themselves, but the constant immersion in news. And also, the lack of balance between mundane stuff and horror news. Online news publishers want to bombard you with news that keep you clicking, so they make a drama out of stuff that, while unfortunate, is hardly the end of the world. After all, what they do is harvest and sell your attention - and they have become quite good at it.
One major obstacle to kicking the online news habit is that it is unreasonable to not read any news at all. As citizens, we wish to stay informed on what happens in the world and our country. So we navigate to a news site and - get pulled in again.
The solution is surprisingly simple:
Get your news from a hardcopy newspaper
Yes, the old fashioned ones in that weird format that makes it hard to flip the pages (pro tip: lay it flat on a table that’s large enough). Here are some of the obvious advantages of printed news:
No malware, no animated adds, no autoplay videos, no tracking.
A wider spectrum of news, both in content and in level of scandal. Nowadays, you are probably better informed by skimming a print copy than ten websites, especially about local news concerning the place you live.
It has an end. After you have read it, it’s been read. It’s over until the next day. It’s not connected to an infinite pipe of stuff for you to obsess over and click on.
So yes, the lifehack for kicking the news addiction consists of getting your news from somewhere else, specifically, from old-school print media.
How about the transition?
Install a site blocker and use it to block news sites
Site blockers are simple plugins, available for most browsers, that let you specify lists of sites to block, and have them blocked for periods of time. For Firefox it’s leechBlock, which is what I use. Other browsers have such plugins too.
Such blockers are really good to keep you from relapsing. After all, the usual way one ends up on a news site is because of boredom.
What to do instead at such times? Nothing, really. It’s better for your mental health to be bored than to read news.
Sample the hysteria vortex twice a month
So when is it OK to read online news again? “Never” is obviously not a realistic answer. Online news really provide a lot of very good and diverse sources of opinion and information. It only becomes a problem because of the sheer volume of it, which is overwhelming, and from it being organized in a way designed to distract and upset you.
I’m still experimenting with the optimal rate, but I’ve come to the conclusion that sampling web news every other week for an hour at most gives me what I need in terms of extra information beyond the paper news. It also reminds me of the reasons for staying away from web news: it’s a real hysteria vortex that just does not reflect the way the world is.