Going On a Low-Information Diet

My best friend J recently decided to go on a low-information diet. He is normally the guy who checks several news sites every day, follows a bunch of podcasts, and rounds it out with some Facebook time. As he so eloquently puts it: He is very good at dicking around, hence the diet.

The term “low-information” diet was originally coined by Tim Ferriss in “The 4-Hour Workweek.” It refers to a conscious daily effort to NOT expose yourself to any kind of news or social media. I have my reservations about Tim Ferriss’ writing (too many quick fix promises are involved) but some of his ideas are spot on – and the low-information diet is among his best.

In truth, 24/7 news and social media are the flagellum of the digital age. Marx is often quoted for stating “religion is the opiate of the masses” – I think we can confidently exchange religion for social media at this point in time. News and social media primarily serve one function: To keep us unproductively staring at our screens, wasting precious hours of our life.

Think I’m being too dramatic? Well, you might want to start clocking how much time YOU waste checking out funny cat videos on YouTube. There are plenty of apps for that, such as RescueTime. I predict you are going to be very surprised…

This is no light matter. All you have in life is time. Wasting 1-2 hours EACH day amounts to an insane amount of time over the course of an entire lifetime. It equates to time that could have been spent mastering SEVERAL complex skillsets, building the business of your dreams or becoming healthy. Or all of these. But no: We forego the truly important projects in favor of the quick emotional high that Facebook provides. “Oh, Carla has a new boyfriend?” “No way, this guy fell off a mountain and survived!” “Man, this girl has some insane twerking skills!”

Really?

And don’t give me the whole “But news sites are different” spiel – because they are not. You really think you are participating in the democratic process or doing your civil duty by checking cnn.com several times a day? Please, stop. It serves the exact same function as Facebook or YouTube – we want a mental distraction from the boring lives we lead. And we want it BAD. It is the drama that keeps us hooked to these sites, the emotional rollercoaster we experience by watching the tragedies around the world. We want to FEEL something, we want to be distracted and we want to satisfy our curiosity. There is nothing noble or worthy about it.

And you are not going to miss out anyways: If something truly enormous happens, you will hear about it eventually. People will tell you about it. You walk by newsstands and you can’t help but notice the headlines. So, you still get plenty of information, even on a low-information diet.

One last thought experiment: If you were by some external force prohibited from ever watching the news again or checking out social media again for pleasure, would anything change for the worse? No. The world on a geopolitical level simply goes on without you, whether you pay attention or not. However, using that time to change yourself and maybe even the lives of the people immediately around you in the process – THAT would make a difference.

Now, please go and sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss out on any of the earth-shattering news and ideas I provide – this is completely different, obviously…

Until next time.