Author Topic: Low Information Diet  (Read 3403 times)

EscapeVelocity2020

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Low Information Diet
« on: August 15, 2018, 11:42:21 PM »
Did not see a discussion on this (eponymous post) so I thought it would be good to see what others think.  Just a couple quotes from Pete to start it off:

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Last night, a military friend of mine mentioned the impending doom to me, which is the first I had heard of the situation. Unfortunately that triggered a late night of sweaty reading on my part, catching up on the history of this predicament, cursing the bullshit and the rhetoric of the responsible members of congress, and generally being pissed off about things.  But after an uneasy sleep and a slightly groggy morning, I opened my shutters and found a clear blue sky with bright yellow sun, singing birds, and my lovely family running up to me to request hugs and breakfast. And thus, my plans for today do not include reading any more of the news.

Probably hyperbole, I don't imagine anyone reading or hearing a little news and getting quite so worked up.  Most people I talk to read news every day and discuss it with more or less enthusiasm as one would expect.  Every once in a while there is a little 'life changing' event, but it's usually a personal matter and not some national news, so I'm laughing along with Pete at this point.

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Now comes the interesting part. The “largest possible audience” is by definition biased towards the people who watch television the most. These are the struggling masses, the people with debt problems, the folks likely to bring a 3-year-old SUV down to the GMC dealer and trade it in for an even newer loan document. They are not comprised of 65% engineers, technology and finance workers, doctors, lawyers, and teachers like the readers of this blog. While news programming is an awful diet for their brains, it’s even worse for yours.

But this is where I start to get worried.  If the majority non-Mustachian audience can be programmed to vote against our interests, then what does it matter if we are FI and pleasantly avoiding mis-information?  Ultimately we will be paying for their overspending, debt (in the form of higher taxes, lower market returns, or inflation), and poor policy choices.

Just opening up the discussion, maybe it's been discussed before?
« Last Edit: August 16, 2018, 08:38:56 AM by EscapeVelocity2020 »

marty998

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2018, 05:22:32 AM »
I could never quite turn off the news entirely. It helps to go on holiday where there is no internet, but even when I return I can make it about two weeks before I need my sugar hit of current affairs. I try to limit it to credible business, policy and economic news as much as possible - if only to understand the rules, constraints and opportunities of the game we are all playing.


If the majority non-Mustachian audience can be programmed to vote against our interests, then what does it matter if we are FI and pleasantly avoiding mis-information?  Ultimately we will be paying for their overspending, debt (in the form of higher taxes, lower market returns, or inflation), and poor policy choices.

Sounds like a variation of "youth is ruining everything" or "the world is going to hell in a hand basket" type thinking.

I take the view Mustachians will always be in a better position to adapt to whatever is the state of the world.

G-dog

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2018, 08:29:55 AM »
I don’t feel I can be a responsible citizen or informed voter by isolating myself. But after the election and inauguration of #45 - I did greatly reduce my exposure to the news for at least 6 moths.

Of course - the post you linked to is from October 2013.  Ah, the good old days 🤓

FreelanceToFreedom

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2018, 07:25:30 PM »
I don't watch the news or read news articles unless they are of particular interest to me.

I do get The Economist weekly, and I use that as a recap of the week. I really enjoy it's global perspective, with an obvious focus on finance, business and economics. Honestly, I still skip some articles about Trump because it just makes my blood boil, and it's just not worth it.

Basically, I know he's doing horrible shit just because of who he is as a person, so I don't feel the need to find out what horrible shit he did this week

stoaX

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2018, 01:36:53 PM »
I also use The Economist as my primary new source.  Even when I disagrees with their opinions I like the fact that I can tell from their writing what is opinion and what is fact.

The other thing I have noticed over the years is just how wrong most new sources can be when reporting on an issue that you have a high degree of knowledge about.   My job has had me dealing with the ACA (Obamacare) several hours a day since the beginning in 2010.  When the news actually gets something right about it, they often inflate the importance of it.

I wish the media would go on a low hyperbole diet....

ixtap

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2018, 01:50:25 PM »

I wish the media would go on a low hyperbole diet....

That would be great.

My husband is having some pretty serious stress issues and I have found him visibly shaking when exposed to certain kinds of news. The worst was probably the Stephon Clark shooting. He has gone from a steady diet of news to basically only getting what I share with him. Then he reads up on the issues around election time.

GuitarStv

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2018, 02:28:32 PM »
You can choose to ignore the world around you based on your current circle of control . . . or you can actively engage with the outside world to expand your circle of control.

Tass

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2018, 03:04:46 PM »
You can choose to ignore the world around you based on your current circle of control . . . or you can actively engage with the outside world to expand your circle of control.

This might be genius.

I am trying to be careful both about the information I consume and the information I produce for others to read. Basically, the rage cycle has itself covered; it doesn't need my help to continue making people angry. I try to make sure that when I speak up, it's to add something worthwhile to the conversation.

But the quote about staying up all night reading and worrying is still depressingly familiar.

talltexan

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2018, 11:54:12 AM »
I, too, have been repeatedly buffeted by the outrages of the day. I reached peak "can't even" earlier this month. I've tried to unfollow people on FB so as to not be overly bothered (or affirmed). Goal is to leave my FB experience as basically a year-round Christmas card.

on Twitter, I've sorted my sources into lists, so that I can ignore some of them, or at least defer checking it as often because of having to perform extra clicks.

When I'm in the car, I'm listening to more CD's, less radio.

It's become clear to me how much all of us filter the information that reaches us anyway, so what use is being informed if you're being informed with very noisy signals about what is actually going on?

Tass

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2018, 02:51:27 PM »
It's become clear to me how much all of us filter the information that reaches us anyway, so what use is being informed if you're being informed with very noisy signals about what is actually going on?

That attitude frightens me.

Yeah, maybe we need to improve the way that factual information and insightful analysis is marketed and distributed. But I don't think the right solution is not bothering to be informed at all.

There are already too many people who can't explain why they believe what they do when pressed - or at least who can't explain it with a basis in actual fact. We don't need more of them.

EscapeVelocity2020

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2018, 10:13:14 AM »
Russ Roberts at EconTalk.org refers to this as 'curated news'.  He discusses it every once in a while and has not really come up with a good solution.  Obviously people should seek out the ideas and news that they disagree with (like checking in on Fox.com and Fox News) just to see the full picture and understand the world, but it is easier said than done (I typically leave with a higher bloodpressure and even less consideration over all the 'what-aboutism', demonizing Hillary/Obama/Dems, and 'Trump as savior for all the world's ills' shenanigans). 

Another aspect around a low information diet, pertinent to isolating in any group (e.g. Mustachians), was in this episode:  http://www.econtalk.org/lilliana-mason-on-uncivil-agreement/

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I think the fascinating part about this is that, it's one thing to think about your own group, or the pleasure or comfort you get from feeling part of something larger than yourself--which I think is a deeply human urge that we economists neglect, simply I think because we don't have the tools to deal with it very well. But, the other part of this, that's the darker side, is the desire to look down on The Other. To look down on people who aren't in the group, people in the Out Group. And: What kind of research--what do we know about that phenomenon? Obviously the Robbers Cave Experiment, the Rattlers and the Eagles, is an example of that. You know, whether it was increased through some decisions made by the experimenters, who knows? But it was definitely a human urge to not just feel part of your group, but to look down on the other people not in your group.

MandalayVA

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2018, 10:37:48 AM »
I get my news from the Reuters website.  It hits the highlights without the editorials.  Once upon a time, the BBC's website was like that, but not anymore. 

FINate

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2018, 11:43:14 AM »
The unhappiest, bitterest people I know are on opposite extremes of the political spectrum. From my perspective it seems many have latched onto political ideology as their primary source of identity. I can't find the research paper at the moment, but there was an intriguing study where a control group was asked "what is your opinion of idea X" vs a variable group asked "what is your opinion of idea X as proposed by person Y." The results were wildly different in the control group depending on who Y is and the ideology the respondent mostly closely identified with. In other words it's all tribalism, and the media foments the tribal warfare because it's good for the news cycle. For these folks the news cycle is like throwing gasoline on a fire and a media detox is probably a good idea.

As a cynical moderate I have zero fucks to give about most of the outrage from both the left and the right. However, I generally don't hide or unfriend people on social media, nor do I ignore the extreme right/left media outlets. Quite happy to read the things others believe are super important and if nothing else it helps me to increase in empathy since I get a better sense for what is causing people to feel all the feels. But I have to admit, I often find myself chuckling and loling when reading this stuff.

talltexan

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2018, 09:22:38 AM »
It's become clear to me how much all of us filter the information that reaches us anyway, so what use is being informed if you're being informed with very noisy signals about what is actually going on?

That attitude frightens me.

Yeah, maybe we need to improve the way that factual information and insightful analysis is marketed and distributed. But I don't think the right solution is not bothering to be informed at all.

There are already too many people who can't explain why they believe what they do when pressed - or at least who can't explain it with a basis in actual fact. We don't need more of them.

There are a couple of knobs we can turn here, though. One is time: depending on print media means you're now a day or a week removed from the events. It also means a lot of noise has been filtered out.

One is viewpoint: I see Fox called out, but I thought Roberts made the right point that Fox is really competing against other right-leaning sources, like the WSJ or Breitbart. Some of those are more overt, but some are less overt. You could also remove the "opinion" pieces.

One is the tool. Stay away from stuff like FB, where you're seeing information chosen by your friends from HS, many of whom might have been less talented at processing information than you are.

diapasoun

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2018, 10:39:29 AM »
There are two MMM posts that had a massive effect on me. The first is the Shockingly Simple Math post. The other is the Low Information Diet post (along with the Circle of Control post).

I'm a lefty with a bunch of even-further-left friends. As you can imagine, social media in my circle of friends has been a cycle of outrage for the last two years. Every once in a while there are good, genuinely informative posts or calls to action. Most of the time, it's "but isn't this HORRIBLE" with no suggestions about what anyone could actually do about it -- just a scream into the bubble. It became exhausting, and at times painful, and even more it was distracting me from what I could actually do. Reading this MMM post really crystallized that for me and gave me a way to conceptualize what was going on and talk about it in ways that made it very easy for me to make changes.

So now? Drastically minimized social media time. I read the news on my own (because I want to be informed) and end up much better informed than I would be through the social media bubble, because I get a wider variety of viewpoints and sources on numbers, and better able to make decisions for myself, because I read so much less emotional commentary. I also have straight up more time *and* more emotional bandwidth to do things like call my senators and volunteer -- things that are absolutely within my circle of control, but that I was neglecting in favor of witnessing a bubble of outrage.

I can see how that post can be used to justify disengaging and avoiding conversations and work that are difficult and unpleasant. After all, there are people who think that if they can't completely solve a complex national or global problem through their own individual effort, then any effort is futile. But if you change your information diet to focused intake that prepares you for the types of action that one individual can do? Better for you AND for the world.

Tass

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #15 on: October 16, 2018, 12:27:12 PM »
It's become clear to me how much all of us filter the information that reaches us anyway, so what use is being informed if you're being informed with very noisy signals about what is actually going on?

That attitude frightens me.

Yeah, maybe we need to improve the way that factual information and insightful analysis is marketed and distributed. But I don't think the right solution is not bothering to be informed at all.

There are already too many people who can't explain why they believe what they do when pressed - or at least who can't explain it with a basis in actual fact. We don't need more of them.

There are a couple of knobs we can turn here, though. One is time: depending on print media means you're now a day or a week removed from the events. It also means a lot of noise has been filtered out.

One is viewpoint: I see Fox called out, but I thought Roberts made the right point that Fox is really competing against other right-leaning sources, like the WSJ or Breitbart. Some of those are more overt, but some are less overt. You could also remove the "opinion" pieces.

One is the tool. Stay away from stuff like FB, where you're seeing information chosen by your friends from HS, many of whom might have been less talented at processing information than you are.

I agree with all of this. I just want to make sure my information "diet" is about getting well-curated info, rather than no info at all. Eating for nutrients rather than starving yourself, to continue the metaphor.

talltexan

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #16 on: December 06, 2018, 08:12:36 AM »
Excellent books should also be part of this.

Korrywow

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2019, 12:09:55 AM »
For a media break/ change, look and listen to some RT (Russia) or Al J. Both are hopelessly biased to promote their rewritten histories/cultures, etc.; although their documentaries are good.

RT is especially entertaining, and they have some brilliant talking heads to keep the media show rolling.

koshtra

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2019, 08:02:55 AM »
To me, the critical difference isn't the amount of information, it's the quality of it. Daily news is low-grade information. Well-researched history is high quality information: it's been verified and and sifted and argued over. Reading, say, Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson will tell you more about American political reality than fifty years of nightly gawking at the tube, even though in one sense it's "out of date." If you don't understand how a machine actually works and what it's actually doing, voluminous reports on its crackles and fizzes and lurches don't really tell you much. It's understanding that you ought to be aiming for.

Real information is challenging. It doesn't make sense at first. It's frustrating. Information that's slick and shiny and tells you that you're absolutely right about everything, and your opponents are all idiots, and none of your allies are problematic -- that's junk food. It will make you sick. And that's what daily news sources mostly deliver, whatever their political leanings.

90% of your information should come from books, or deep-dive magazines/journals. You don't need to know the latest nasty name that Democrat X just made up for Republican Y, or The Stupidest Thing Said by a Political Figure Today. You really don't.

Dabnasty

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #19 on: January 04, 2019, 09:30:40 AM »
To me, the critical difference isn't the amount of information, it's the quality of it. Daily news is low-grade information. Well-researched history is high quality information: it's been verified and and sifted and argued over. Reading, say, Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson will tell you more about American political reality than fifty years of nightly gawking at the tube, even though in one sense it's "out of date." If you don't understand how a machine actually works and what it's actually doing, voluminous reports on its crackles and fizzes and lurches don't really tell you much. It's understanding that you ought to be aiming for.

Real information is challenging. It doesn't make sense at first. It's frustrating. Information that's slick and shiny and tells you that you're absolutely right about everything, and your opponents are all idiots, and none of your allies are problematic -- that's junk food. It will make you sick. And that's what daily news sources mostly deliver, whatever their political leanings.

90% of your information should come from books, or deep-dive magazines/journals. You don't need to know the latest nasty name that Democrat X just made up for Republican Y, or The Stupidest Thing Said by a Political Figure Today. You really don't.

Very well put, both of your analogies are spot on.

talltexan

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #20 on: January 04, 2019, 11:29:20 AM »
I listened to the Slow Burn podcast series by Leon Nayfakh. Season I was about watergate, and season II was about the Clinton scandals of the 1990's (there were so many!).

It actually led me to conclude that a lot of today's outrage simply repeats on a cycle! Believing that today is ordinary, rather than extraordinary, is a key pillar of the LID. And the probability is that today is a lot more ordinary than you think.

ChpBstrd

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #21 on: January 04, 2019, 12:00:48 PM »
There are more ways to live than these two options:

1) Being a perpetually outraged info junkie manipulated by media/social media.
3) Bring a cynical, pessimistic, non-contributor, similarly manipulated by media/social media.

I think it was instructive to learn that the goal of the Russian Facebook operation of 2016 was to discourage certain targeted demographics from voting. Negative political ads do the same. Cynicism is a weapon.

The people with money to spend on influence campaigns are using it to convince you that your idealism is dead, and if you accept that premise, it might make sense to think the new SUV or  fast-food burger in the next ad is your best remaining option to be happy. Imagine hundreds of millions of nihilistic people so deprived of hope and ideals that their best conception of the good life is to consume all they can consume before dying. Now look around you.

Might I humbly propose...

3) Holding onto your values, optimism, hope, and confidence in humanity as your most prized possessions despite the onslaught of propaganda, turning away from the propaganda sources whenever possible, and as ultimate acts of defiance, voting in every single election and sending your extra money to organizations that support your values instead of selling you useless crap.

EricEng

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #22 on: January 08, 2019, 08:53:51 AM »
You can choose to ignore the world around you based on your current circle of control . . . or you can actively engage with the outside world to expand your circle of control.
This is very true.  Individually we have very little control over geopolitics.  Sticking your head in the sand might not appear to make a difference.  However, being informed and engaging with those around you influences their views and beliefs, even if slightly.  If everyone they encounter has an opposing view to their own that peer pressure can influence and change them.  It is a ripple effect.

This is so critical in the current political climate.  If all one side stuck their head in the sand until election day you can guarantee he gets reelected.  If you engage your friends, family, coworkers then we can influence and expand control.  You can't effectively engage in discussion if you are uninformed (although you can sadly be loud and vulgar as has been proven).

So I disagree with MMM on this item.  We are in this mess because too many people thought it was safe, took it for granted, and no need to engage in 2016.

Korrywow

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Re: Low Information Diet
« Reply #23 on: January 16, 2019, 02:38:46 AM »
I think MMM was referring to mainstream popular media which is 90% garbage. Koshtras post ,dated Jan3 ,is correct in suggesting that we research sources of quality info, enabling us to maintain a decent degree of awareness without dealing with the daily media noise.

Finally, l believe in "outrageous optimism" and happy thoughts because they are both good for brain health. However, some " practical pessimism" ( or " cautious optimism", as suggested by Jared Diamond in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed) may be a useful, rational counterbalance to an all encompassing optimism...because both extreme optimism and hope are instinctual, irrational emotions that may set you up for some big disappointments further on up de road.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2019, 02:43:54 AM by Korrywow »