Tuesday, February 19, 2013
My 2013 Goals. Part One: Media
When I did my goal setting for the year, I broke it down into categories such a marriage, family, house projects, work, and personal goals. From those categories I have action items that I can add to my weekly to-do list so I know that on a week by week basis I am inching toward my overall goals.
One of my personal goals was to address media consumption. My intention was to limit my exposure to TV and the internet and to be intentional with what I choose to expose myself to. In the month or two since I established those goals, my ideas about this category have expanded and it's become more than just the minor goal category it started as. This is partly due to the amazing book I just finished: Antifragile by Nassim Taleb.
Taleb stressed the point that the more we expose ourselves to media (noise) the less we can hear the important stuff (signals) when they happen. If you have the Today show on in the morning, watch Fox news or CNN all day long at work or home, and then watch entertainment shows in the evening, you are constantly being exposed to noise. All these stations, especially the news, need to have stuff to tell you. It doesn't matter if it's a slow news day or a big news day, these shows still need to fill out their time with stuff. Just about all of it is useless noise. I believe that if there is something I really need to know, it will find it's way to me. Everything else isn't worth knowing, and in fact too much media can trick me into thinking I know more than I do. It is much more valuable to develop your own ideas about things than to know other people's (news pundits) ideas about things.
Taleb's book forced me to analyze my media habits more carefully but also gave me permission to trust myself with my own education. As a fellow bibliophile, his assertion that books educate more than any other medium deeply resonated with me. I can't be tricked into thinking that avoiding mainstream media will make me uneducated. In fact it will do just the opposite. The more I read, the more I will be able to think about and contemplate the world around me. And that's how my media avoidance goal and my book reading goal have now merged. The reason I can aim for 100 books this year (23 and counting) is because I am eliminating the noise.
I started my "Media Goal Setting" in a pretty good position. We don't have cable TV (it's been at least 3 years). We have an antenna on the roof and a cord that snakes across our living room that we drag out when we want to watch something (football). We also have Netflix, and until recently we watched quite a bit of TV shows and movies (without commercials at least). When Andrew got back from his meditation retreat in October, his TV watching habit was broken and it hasn't come back, which suited me just fine. We will watch a TV show if we want (this week we watched 3 episodes of Treme on CD) and we usually watch 1 movie per week with the family on Friday night and/or 1 movie on Wednesday night (this week is was Flight on Wednesday and Here Comes the Boom on Friday, which killed about 1 billion brain cells). I am comfortable with this. So, without TV to worry about, what media did I think I wanted to avoid? Here are some things I initially addressed:
These don't need much explanation. Who doesn't find Facebook's version of humanity to be tiresome? We all know how internet forums are - all talk, all distraction, all the time. All of these media outlets are 99% noise, 1% signal. So these things were easy to limit (FB and news) or totally avoid (forums).
Now that it's mid-February, I find myself going deeper, addressing radio habits.
I had a free 3month subscription that ended this week. Having XM has been useful because it weaned me off local radio and NPR news but it isn't good enough to compel me to keep it. In the end it's helping me transition totally to only listening to podcasts and my own music. Self-selected material will teach me more about a wide variety of things than anything I will hear in mass-market media.
RSS is amazing but it tends to get cluttered and overgrown like everything else. I subscribe to too many feeds. I think I can eliminate 80% of my feeds in each category and not lose anything as I don't read most of it anyway. I've already started this process and so far I am not missing anything I've deleted.
Mainstream media wants to tell me what's normal, what's desirable, what's acceptable, what I should be aiming for and dreaming for, what I should covet, how I should view the world, how families and friends are supposed to interact, how and why things happen and what is going to happen in the future, and who my enemies are. The more I want to decide these things for myself, the less I should expose myself to mainstream media. The more I want to explore these topics out of genuine interest, the more I should read books. The less time and energy I spend on mainstream media, the more time and energy I have to devote to actually learning (which for me means reading).
The book I am currently reading is about math but has this aprapos quote from Thomas Jefferson that he wrote to John Adams after leaving politics:
I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid; and I find myself much the happier".
If the author of the Declaration of Independence had no use for politics, than certainly I can be excused.