Information Overload: Cutting Back on the News

As last year wore on, I noticed myself steadily reading more and more of what I would consider general “news”, something I’ve written before that I try to avoid. Previously, Twitter was the worst culprit for me, but after giving it up I didn’t even install it when I got my new phone.

This time it was more subtle. I noticed myself adding a lot of feeds to my Feedly, to the point where there was always new stories if I pulled and refreshed. I noticed that I’d open the ESPN app and just keep scrolling through stories and videos. I also became addicted to swiping left on the Google Now launcher on my phone, which displays a never ending feed of sports scores, weather, and news stories based upon my interests, something Google has (unsurprisingly) gotten really good at doing.

I decided that I wanted to take a step back and reevaluate. It’s hard to describe, but when I’m over-consuming I tend to feel more scatterbrained, more stressed, and my feed reader in particular starts to feel like an item on my to-do list that I need to cross off. And really, none of the information is particularly applicable to my day to day life. Between the podcasts I listen to, the physical copy of Businessweek Magazine I subscribe to, and my weekly reading of the NY Times Weekend Briefing, I’m plenty informed.

A few weeks ago I made some simple changes:

  • I turned off the news feed in the Google Now launcher (Settings > Your feed > Show feed)
  • I removed Feedly and the ESPN app from my home screen and instead set up a bare bones RSS reader with just a few sports feeds and feeds from my very favorite blogs. I’m trying to check just 1-2 times per day.
  • I unsubscribed from the Daily Tech Headlines podcast

So far, so good. I’ve found myself reaching for my phone less often, and when I do I’ve been firing up the Kindle app and reading books. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep it up. Originally I thought a month was a good time frame, but as long as I’m enjoying it why put a restriction on it?

Update 3/5/18: I wrote a follow-up post.