I stopped reading the news. Here’s what I’ve experienced.

JOMO? FOMO? Or, should we call it IOMO?

Photo by Echo Grid on Unsplash

Information Age

The Internet heralded the arrival of the Information Age. Moving on from machinery, information was going to be the new currency, the new skill and indeed the new “oil”. In the 90s when computers and internet entered common households, the benefits were palpable. We were better informed, informed faster and had a degree of global reach. Then social media arrived. It represented a new peak of internet enabled information gathering and communication. Soon, the peak turned into a landslide. Before we knew it, the double-edged sword of technology soon showed its other side. Information overload became a bigger issue than information gathering.

Quantity overload

The D-I-K-W pyramid represents the cumulative progression from tangible data towards the more esoteric wisdom. In the past, we started mostly as the information “level”. Now, as data analytics advances, and as the need for sensational news increases, instead of going up from information towards knowledge, we’re instead dragged down towards consuming at the data level.

D-I-K-W Pyramid

Quality depreciation

As the quantity and granularity of the information we consume has increased, quality has taken a significant downturn.

Why I stopped reading the news

Today we are over-informed; informed way more than we need to be — and through sources which are not always credible. Information has gone from being a necessity to being a “necessary evil”. As quality suffers, it wanders more towards the “evil” aspect than “necessity”.

What about FOMO?

Regardless of the state of news media today, news is a necessity. We cannot live as hermits. The Fear of Missing Out is real. As I undertook this experiment, the key question was: how to combat FOMO? The key lay in defining my circle of control.

Circle of Influence and Control

The basic premise is that there are things that we can control, things we can influence, and a nebulous exosphere of things that are of concern. As evident from the diagram, we’re best to focus on things we can control.

Circle of Control
  • What can control or influence my actions? This is important information like weather, laws, mandates, taxes, local events, traffic etc. It constrains our choices and actions in tangible, and often immediate, ways.
  • What is merely a concern (that I ought to be) filtering out? A military operation 16797 km away, a default by a tennis player, an election in another country. The have minimal bearing on our everyday lives. The media will surely jump on every item it can lay its hands on and present it as sensationally, emotionally and selectively as possible. Psychology and business models — remember? It’s up to us to not take the bait.

“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.” — Epictetus, Greek Stoic philosopher

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