Being selectively ignorant

Published on Oct 30, 2020

Straight from James Clear's newsletter:

"Be "selectively ignorant."
Ignore topics that drain your attention.
Unfollow people that drain your energy.
Abandon projects that drain your time.
Do not keep up with it all. The more selectively ignorant you become, the more broadly knowledgable you can be."

It's funny how I increasingly live by those words as I get older. Is it due to age? Or just plain busyness? But I find a certain sense of relief and freedom from not having to keep up with everything. Years ago, I'm one of those who would read everything in my social feeds - Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, news outlets, and every email in my inbox and every message in all my chat groups. Getting to inbox zero everywhere was a personal obsession. Playing whack-a-mole on all the app notifications on my phone was a game I played every hour. It was easier back in those days when social media feeds were chronological and less algorithm-heavy. But still it was exhausting keeping up.

Now, I don't really care. News consumption is serendipitious. I drop in and out of chat groups, not caring about the conversations that went on before, and not really caring about what happens after. I don't even hit every notification just to clear it. Just let it float gently away like the autumn leaves falling off the trees. I sidestep anything that's toxic and not constructive. I block trolls even if they were commenting in other people's threads – toxic people bring toxicity everywhere. Best to not see them anywhere at all, even if I didn't know them. The stuff I track and care about are usually for learning purposes – Facebook groups that share useful learning tips about coding and entrepreneurship, for example. And the more I selectively ignore, the clearer my mind seems to be. 

Sure there's a risk of creating a thought bubble, an echo chamber from being selective. But my sanity is worth more. It's easier to mitigate echo chamber effects. It's harder to get back sanity once it's lost. Truth can wait. And in our age of information overload, we're literally having the equivalent of 'junk food' diet in our media consumption. Everyone knows a junk food diet is bad for health, but few realise and act on how bad a junk media diet is for our mental wellbeing. And I haven't even got to fake news, or "alternative facts". I think we are now at a stage where, as James Clear rightly put, "the more selectively ignorant you become, the more broadly knowledgable you can be", because it's so so easy to be distracted and blinded by all the frantic hand-waving online, that we no longer think clearly and in effect, become less knowledgable, more stupid.

It might sound trite but "less is more" couldn't be more accurate in this day and age.