selective ignorance: beyond social media

The biggest lesson we learnt in 2020 is probably the fact that change is the only constant. We need to be prepared for unexpected incidents. Long-term planning doesn’t quite work. The second lesson we learnt is the importance of physical and mental health. People reacted differently to lockdown and working from home: some valued the physical freedom and decided to be more productive at home, while some simply decided to sleep in, enjoying the perks from saved commute hours. Whatever you do, you probably will notice 2 things are needed to a certain degree: physical activities and socialising.

We scroll our phone before we sleep, and right after we get up. We can’t have normal coffee and cigarette breaks in the office now, and we unconsciously change how we communicate. Well, we have advanced technology now, and surely we can keep in touch with everyone and get hold of any piece of news every single minute. That sounds great, until we start to pay attention to how the pandemic and the lockdown affected our mental health.

What have we missed by not chitchatting in pantry and during weekend brunches?

Gossips, politics, mutual friends’ engagements, affairs and so on.

While that doesn’t sound very valuable (I definitely have no fear of missing out), nonetheless it creates bonding. A certain degree of socialising is good for health, or so I have been told.

In times of pandemic, how do we receive and exchange information?

Information Overload

Are you unconsciously getting addicted to reading news? At first, it seemed innocent. We checked the daily figures of confirmed cases. We needed to know if we could go to the park in the neighbourhood within 5km. We needed to know if we could buy takeaway coffee. Then we wanted to know if the boarder was open to our state. Then our curiosity expanded internationally.

I’m not saying we should be ignorant about the seriousness of the virus. After working from home all day, when you are scrolling for more news on bed, have you ever felt suffocated? The rising figures were worrying. Not being able to visit family and relatives overseas could be devastating. We are unconsciously adding burden to ourselves.

Detrimental Effect

I have been carrying this burden since June last year. A different kind of information overload, before virus happened. The protests and chaos that happened in Hong Kong last year caused a widespread depression, fear and, well, health threat due to the amount of tear gas used. I had been keeping track of every piece of news, and I would like to see updates every minute. It was insane back then. It drove my crazy. There was just so much pressure and anxiety. When virus started spreading in late January, my worries spiked to a new level. I started having imaginary symptoms. Sometimes I couldn’t breathe, and I panicked at the possibility of catching the virus. The news and figures were not helping. I was constantly on the edge. Things only started to change after I left Hong Kong in February. And then the lockdown caused another kind of detrimental effect on me.

Selective Ignorance

This mindset is huge, coming from someone who used to turn on all the notifications in times of chaos, social unrest and pandemic. I have changed. I realised the importance and benefits of selective ignorance.

I first came across with this term in Tim Ferriss’ “4 Hour Work Week”. The idea is, we should protect our energy and priorities by being intentionally ignorant to news and social media. At first it might sound very insensitive, and even irresponsible to not keep up with world news, but it actually makes sense. If things are groundbreaking (e.g. lockdown, election, pandemic), you’re bound to hear it from someone close to you.

Selective ignorance: the practice of selectively ignoring distracting, irrelevant, or otherwise unnecessary information received, such as e-mails, news reports, etc.

Why Selective Ignorance is Great

1 you protect your priorities

We all react to news. Often times there is nothing much you can do about that piece of information, except to react, and be affected. That being said, it is still okay to cry over earthquakes, terrorist attacks and whatever life throws at you. Draw your own boundaries. Don’t let news consume you.

If you have a vision and a couple of goals in mind, you need focus and attention. News are distractions. So are gossips, politics and other stuff that you don’t actually give a damn about. If you feed them attention, you are going to lose track of what matters. That’s also why I hate email and news app notifications. They disturb flow states and feed you with useless stuff. They affect performance and efficiency. Trust me, you don’t look for time to kill. You can’t afford that.

2 you protect your wellbeing and happiness

imagine scrolling Facebook or Twitter first thing in the morning only to find out you’re in lockdown again. That is gonna ruin your whole day. It destroyed your momentum, and possibly made you throw away your plans as well. While morning routine is not the discussion today, I still back the idea that we should do what matters most first thing in the morning before you “reconnect” with the world.

Decision Making Process Before Consumption

Ask yourself these 3 questions before you consume anything:

1 Do you have control over what you are going to consume?

90% of the time you don’t have control over the content.

2 What good would that bring you by consuming it?

Measure this from the next hour to within 1 year.

3 Do you give a damn about what you are going to consume?

You probably ain’t gonna do anything about it, why bother?

Final Thoughts

Selective ignorance can be applied on a larger scale, say like what you eat, read and listen to. This makes it more important to use the 3 questions above before you consume that bottle of beer, open Instagram, or read the daily death tolls. If we “tune in” to things that serve our goals and purposes, we will be channeling more energy on the things that truly matter. The right kind of food boosts your energy level. The right kind of books stimulates your thinking. The right kind of music motivates you. The list goes on.

Live a little. Life is definitely more than what you see on social media.