What Happens When You Get Your News Offline for 2 Months

Columnist found himself less anxious, with more time—and new rules for consuming news
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2018 2:54 PM CST
A Washington Post newspaper stand in Washington, Friday, Aug. 3, 2007.   (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

(Newser) – In January, Farhad Manjoo turned off digital news notifications, unplugged from social media, and subscribed to paper editions of three newspapers and a news magazine. After two months of the experiment, during which he also allowed himself to consume the news via podcast, email newsletters, and longform nonfiction, the New York Times columnist had experienced remarkable results: He was less anxious, had more time on his hands (he read six books, started doing pottery, and was more attentive to his family)—and he remained just as informed, if not better informed, about what was going on in the world. The digital news environment is "broken," he writes, with misinformation running rampant and people caught up in echo chambers, "exacerbating ... polarization and softening up society for propaganda." We can fight that by consuming the news differently.

Manjoo's rules (inspired by Michael Pollan's rules for eating): "Get news. Not too quickly. Avoid social." By "news" he means actual, objective news, not the predigested articles posted on social media that are always preceded by commentary from whomever is doing the posting. By waiting a bit for the aforementioned news, you'll also be more likely to get the correct version of events rather than following along as the story is pieced together, which leads to fake news and, at times, an overwhelming sense of paranoia about the world. But by avoiding getting your news mostly from social media, you'll be doing yourself the biggest service. "The built-in incentives on Twitter and Facebook reward speed over depth, hot takes over facts and seasoned propagandists over well-meaning analyzers of news," Manjoo writes. Full column here. (Read more digital media stories.)

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