Why I Stopped Reading the Newspaper

It's been about 4 years since I stopped watching TV regularly, and about half a year since I stopped reading the Newspaper. My reasons for stopping are similar to my reasons for not drinking alcohol. I believe that you need a reason to exhibit an action and you don't need a reason to not exhibit an action. When someone asks me, "Why don't you drink." I say, "I need a reason to drink, not a reason to stay sober." I try to extend this thought process to many of my other habits.

The idea is that you should examine the things that you've learned to do, your habits, and make sure you have reasons for doing so. I'm not suggesting you go through all of your habits at once. Doing so would be counter-productive because you can't possible think about all of your habits at once, there are too many! Instead, just look at ones that are taking up a lot of your time, and are higher level behaviors. What I mean is that you shouldn't examine why you use your left hand to write. You should examine why you go to work everyday, or why you wake up and read the newspaper every morning, or why when you come home from work you sit down and watch television.

Let's do a thought experiment now. Say you want to examine newspaper reading. If you agree with what I've said above, you need to look for a reason to read it.

Newspaper Attractors (ranked most useful to least useful):

Newspaper Detractors (most painful to least painful):
It's nice to be able to converse with people about current events because it gives you something novel and common to talk about. However with some thought, it is usually not hard to find something that is novel and common to talk about. Especially if you can make yourself genuinely interested in the activities of other people. If you are interested in their activities you instantly have a communal interest.

The only reason to know the sentiment of the masses, or the trends is so that you can go against them. Following the trends will just put you in the same boat as other mindless people who read the newspaper. To do anything useful in life, you need to buck the trends, follow the unbeaten path. This reminds me of the phrase:

If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always gotten.

Only when you change yourself and not follow the trends can you accomplish something that is actually newsworthy.

Now look at the detractors, how much time do you have to spend reading the newspaper every day just to get a little nugget of truth from the steaming pile of crap and hype? People I know spend anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes a day reading the newspaper. I'm sure other people read more. If you do this everyday it really starts to add up. Think about what would happen if you instead used that time to exercise or just sit and meditate about your life. You'd be engaged in activities that have direct applicability to your life and survival, instead of reading about some esoteric far off conception of other humans.

Even with the time issue aside, you can get false positives from the newspaper. If I had a dollar for every time the Business section of the Chicago Tribune changed from Bull to Bear on the front page, I'd be a very rich man. What the newspaper tries to convince you are sure trends are actually just the feelings and emotions of other humans. Lots of experimental evidence has shown that humans can't predict much of anything useful about the future. This is doubly true when you are trying to predict what other humans will do. When you predict the future, the other humans are too, which creates a very chaotic environment that the so called liberal "sciences" have made little inroads on.

I don't trust the journalist to make predictions about events just like I don't expect myself to be able to predict the future. Yet this is what most people get from the newspaper. They claim that they have a window into the future actions of other humans because they can read the market is going to collapse or that green is the new fashionable color for this season.

People would be a lot better off, on a whole, if people stopped deluding themselves that they are made smarter by the words in the newspaper. Being in the know about current events, or activities does not make you more able to predict wide trends. Instead, it does the opposite: since you think that you have better knowledge of the world you predict on an even grander scale.

This is crazy. I have a hard enough time predicting what I'll be doing tomorrow, and I have a lot of control over my own actions and behaviors. How can I possible predict what other humans are going to do tomorrow, or next week, or next year. The person who claims he can do this is deluding themselves with the help of the newspaper and other pseudoscience information sources.

If you see any merit in what I say, you should try a 30 day trial where you don't read the newspaper. It truly is a different perspective to only look up the news that you actually care about, and to do it on your own time.

Some people have told me that recently the financial markets have not been doing well. Some might argue that this is crucial information to know, but I don't see how it is directly applicable to my life. What is directly applicable is how I can learn how to change myself. How I can learn how to think better and change my behaviors to reflect better thoughts. That's what I care about and that's what I'm trying to pursue.

For more information about predicting the future, I recommend all of the works of Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
published 2008-02-08

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