NewsFast

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Painting: Ralph Parker 2008 http://ralphparker.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/exploring-portraits/

Earlier this year, April 1, I had embarked on an interesting self-experiment. I stopped reading the newspaper. At my household, we subscribed to The Crimes of India, so one can argue how much substance is in it anyways. Nevertheless, I stopped – and not only the newspaper, I stopped quite a few sources pertaining to news:

  1. The newspaper.
  2. All TV news channels : CNN-IBN, NDTV, TimesArnabNow &the Bengali channels too !
  3. All online news sites ranging from CNN, FirstPost.in, Feedly, Slate

Why did I do it ?

I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t. For quite some time, I had been feeling that there is an overload of information that I am suffering from. And let’s admit it. News today is full of atrocities that one man perpetrates over another (and more than occasionally on a woman). It’s grotesque, makes for bad reading and a cloaks you with a distorted perception of reality. No, I have no intention of living in an ignorant fool’s paradise, denying that these happen, but I just thought I would take a break from ingesting paragraphs upon paragraphs of humanity’s depravity.

A famous quote from Groucho Marx sums it up:

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

News feeds upon itself. No longer are we contented to read one news article. The hyperlinked nature of the web almost forces us to go and find out more and more about the same story. I also thought that a break from this constant news hungriness would give my mind some breathing space that I could probably put to better news. (At the same time, I am quite realistic about these things. I was not expecting that I would end up writing a new operating system with the time I would have on my hands).

The other reason is that most news, especially of the television variety is laden with leading opinions. It is so prejudiced, one way or the other, that it numbs your brains ability to interpret the situation.

Most importantly, I just wanted to do it and see what happens. Would I be able to stay off ? Given that I could not have dinner without turning on the TV, it was a non-trivial ask.

So no news, eh ??

Not quite. My twitter stream would let me know of some key developments in the world, such as the Boston Marathon Bombing or a news about my Alma mater, upon reading which I would look at a few relevant articles to gauge what was going on. Then there are friends and family who bring news to you even if you want to stay away. And if nothing else, facebook is there. And oh, I read slashdot.org occasionally !

How does it feel ?

I have grown comfortable with the idea. I do not feel the inescapable pull towards the newspaper that I used to earlier. No need to turn on the TV during dinner. I chat with Ryana , read my Kindle. I have been reading many more books.

No negative effects ?

There are a few. The principal one is that it is difficult to carry on light conversations. I am not really aware of many things that are happening around me. As one knows, weather and current affairs are two of the mainstays of conversation. But now I openly tell people that I do not read news papers and hence not really up-to-date with the world’s goings on. So, it has kind of worked out. I listen more, which has always been one of my developmental needs Smile

How long will this last ?

I don’t know. It’s going to be three months in a few days. After that I will loosen up a bit. Get back to my Feedly. But avoid the news channels as much as I can. I got to look out for some digests which can give me a dump of the main news once a week.

All Things Considered, this NewsFast was a good thing.

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