Since I did the #NoNothingNovember challenge with leechblock, I’ve noticed just how much, or, better said, how little, standard media exposure adds to my life. The usual ways we entertain, distract and inform ourselves may seem such an integral, normal part of life that it is easy to miss just how negative their influence can be. The majority of the media is sensationalist and biased. News providers, scriptwriters and social media engineers alike all know that anger, shock and fear drive our consumption. But the things which they present us with are actually in no way reflective of our lives. They’re just fodder to keep us hooked on their service.
As I’ve already admitted, media consumption is a fairly normal, integral part of modern life. Few people can completely get rid of it, and you can’t avoid it forever. But, you can be in control of what you consume and cut right back on standard media, enhancing your life without missing out on the information it provides. Here’s how.
1: Trash the TV.
Passive viewing is the most harmful way to consume media of any kind. Switch it on, play it in the background, let it seep into the brain as we are at our most vulnerable. Standard TV, in the modern era, has no advantages over anything else. If you need a bit of background noise, you can play a DVD, a recorded show, or, better yet, some simple music. If you want to be informed, then there are ways to become informed on demand.
An easy way to get rid of your TV is… get rid of your TV. You might want to leave the monitor up for other things, but just disconnect the cable, cancel the service if you can, and let standard TV leave your life for good.
Of course, you won’t be able to avoid TV all the time. I don’t beat myself up if the TV is on when I’m at a friend’s house or in a waiting room. I might even watch it if nothing is happening. But being like the average Brit and spending a day a week in front of a TV is no good for me. Even when a TV is around, the healthy bet is not to be the person who turns it on.
2: Limit social media time and reach.
It may be almost impossible to quit all social media, especially if you have a large and distant family, or if you use the internet for work. But you can exercise control over what social media does to you. For example, you may spend a lot of time arguing with people online. And if you enjoy it and find it fun: go you! But if after a day of shouting at an SJW you feel sick and tired and stressed, then perhaps now is the time to exercise control over your social media.
Do not engage with people who anger you. Many sites give you the option to hide their posts, and posts like theirs, from viewing. You can even block them. Ask yourself what they add to your life, and if the reply is “stress every time I log onto facebook”, then nix them.
3: Interact less with social media.
In a similar vein, if you want to see less drama and sensationalism: click, ‘like’ and share less drama and sensationalism. Social media works via feedback, and if you’re always clicking on bad news, commenting on things that wind you up, ‘liking’ social drama, and sharing things that enrage you, then that is all you will see. On the other hand, if you interact with things you enjoy and independently investigate things you are curious about, then your social media feeds will be enjoyable for you.
4: Select your news sources carefully.
Following from the last points: cutting out standard TV and altering what you see on social media does not mean you have to be uninformed. It is absolutely necessary to know about happenings in the world at large, developments in your field of interest, and events and trends that may influence the people around you.
Instead, rather than passively waiting for news to come to you via TV or social media, seek out news. Give yourself a time each day to browse some news sites, or even news feeds. Pick sites that do not particularly pander to you or to those unlike you. Instead, find sites that offer short, to-the-point, fairly unbiased reports of events. Give yourself a set number of news stories to read -more on this later-, pick them well, get up to date, and then close the website.
5: Subscribe to specialist magazines, newsletters, papers and emails.
If you want to be even further informed on matters that are most relevant to you: find highly specialist news sources and subscribe to them. If you’re into guns, look into newsletters about guns. If you’re into dogs, look into a subscription to a dog-based magazine. Read what you enjoy and stay abreast of news that makes a difference to your life.
6: Buy, and read, more books.
As in 5. Audiobooks if you have little time or suffer dyslexia.
7: Use leechblock, or a similar add-on.
During my #NoNothingNovember challenge in 2014, I cut back on time-wasting websites. This was a big step for me, as most of my work depends on the internet and it was very easy to get sucked into “just one more listicle, or picture, or article”. The worst bit? I didn’t even like the sites I was browsing. I was just looking, blank mind, at pictures of food and memes, getting wound up at the inanities of sites I disagreed with, and correcting incorrect articles in my head.
Being as it was far too easy to accidentally click on a website that would swallow my time just by checking emails, blogging, or doing a bit of research for work, I installed leechblock. This is a firefox add on that basically kicks you off websites you have added to a blacklist. Some were banned til the end of days, because they were worthless. Some were put on a time limit, to encourage faster selection of better-quality articles and prevent me from getting sidelined. Some were only allowed within certain times. All in all, it really helped to reshape my habits, and I have grown for using it. There are similar add-ons for other browsers, and even phone apps that limit access to time-wasting sites and apps after certain time periods. I personally eschew standard smart phones because I don’t need or want them. But if your smartphone is your life, consider deleting any apps that suck up your time and “culling” the amount of data you get automatically fed. Know the difference between “convenient news updates” and “live drama and clickbait straight into your pocket”.
8: Make more use of self-service entertainment.
By self-service entertainment I mean places where you can watch TV series, news, documentaries and films in your own time, on demand. So YouTube, anime feeds, and Netflix would be the big ones for me. There are two major advantages to this.
Firstly, you get to watch a few things for fun, as and when you like them. This beats standard TV at its own game, by miles. Some services even offer live TV shows or shows on a slight delay, so you don’t have to miss out on things you look forward to.
Secondly, almost all these services record your viewing habits for the purpose of recommending you new videos. If you spot that there is a heavy and unhealthy bias in your recommended viewings, then you know you need to adjust your habits until you get better and healthier recommendations.
9: Socialize with people who add value to your life.
Finally, replace as much media as possible with real people. If you’re on social media, aim to spend more time chatting to people in messages than trawling through pages and interacting with posts. If you want to watch a show, try and make it a communal activity. When you find out some interesting news, discuss it with a friend who is also interested and exchange the knowledge you have.
You acquire more, better, more relevant information from having good people in your life than you will ever gather from watching the news every morning. For instance, if there is an outbreak of alabama rot nationwide, the news may not focus on cases relevant to you. If it is in your area, you will find out about it from others who also own dogs, without having to watch three hours of news relevant to other parts of the nation first. Good social connections get you news to the point.
TTFN and Happy Hunting!
What are your media habits like? How do you try and make the media you consume more productive and positive?