8.14.2011

I Tested It: Ignorance IS Bliss (And I'm Never Going Back)

I used to be a 24/7 news and information junkie. When I wasn't watching either CNN, MSNBC or Fox News, I was reading one of 20-some-odd news RSS feeds in my news reader, checking Reddit and Fark and Digg, and otherwise cramming my brain full of everything that was happening, all the time.

Almost a year ago, I decided to stop. It was one of several steps I took to become much happier. And it worked. At first, it felt like there was a massive hole in both my routine and my awareness. I felt, in a word, dumb. I was out of touch. I couldn't participate in discussions about current events with the breadth and depth I used to (which, for the most part, was "subject matter expert" -- the only other people I've ever met who were as tuned in and aware of the second-by-second changes in any story are Drew Curtis who runs Fark, and Alexis Ohanian who runs Reddit, so almost always, I was the guy with his thumb on the pulse of whatever topic was being discussed). And it was a huge blow to my self-perception. Almost as big as running the marathon and consequently losing nearly 30 pounds of muscle. But that's another blog post for another time.

So, a year later, I've run into a few situations with completely separate groups of friends, family and acquaintances where the topic of current events or politics comes up, and I have nothing to contribute. And in each and every case, the exact same thing happens: first, people want to know if I'm sick. Or if there was a blow to the head in my recent history. Or if I'm just playing games.

"You NEVER have nothing to say," someone in each group says.

"Well, I just have no perspective on this," I reply. Note that I don't say "opinion" cause that's never true. But the lack of perspective is. I seriously have no idea what's going on as it happens anymore. I mean, I do hear through the one news feed what's happening in the world. But with the London riots, for instance -- it was three days in before I knew the story. And that's only because someone posted a picture in their Twitter feed.

In fact, that's how I find out almost everything worth knowing -- through social networks. Facebook friends posting an opinion on something, or Twitter friends linking to a story somewhere.

And I couldn't be happier.

There really is a sense of relief in my life; not stuffing my awareness with all this information which -- honestly -- is fleeting. It has opened the door for me to be aware of so many more important things, such as creating things. Drawing, for instance. I now have hours -- HOURS -- I didn't have before to just sit and study the line which forms the distinction between someone's figure and the background in front of which they stand. I can appreciate conversations in a way I never did before, because they're no longer entirely about today's hot news story or someone's ridiculous antics in Congress.

I'm no longer the guy in the know (about current events, anyway). And it's such a relief. As Seth Godin recently pointed out, there is no shortage of speed these days. Everything that's happening right now, we know about right now. It used to matter when something was Breaking News. Bombs going off in subways. Planes flying into buildings. Presidents being impeached. Gas mains breaking and exploding.

Now, EVERYTHING is Breaking. In fact, to me, it's broken. Information is omnipresent and immediate, and we as a society have lost the ability to determine what's really important, because all of it is always in front of us.

I for one am enjoying the break from Breaking. I still know everything worth knowing... The difference is, I now have actual perspective on what matters. At least, the perspective I've come to want. And life is so much better for it.