News informs, but so do distractions.
In a world where “be informed” is touted as an axiom for success and responsible citizenship, it pays to distinguish useful information from over hyped updates about the latest crazy thing that some crazy person did in a really crazy place at the craziest possible time.
Many people orient their conversations around facts. If what’s being said is true, regardless of what it is or who it’s about, that’s enough for them to spend energy discussing it.
In spite of what some information distributors and discussion groups would have us believe, we don’t need to know about factual claims just because they’re popular, polemic, or provocative.
Time matters and our attention is our life. These are the most valuable commodities in our possession. Whatever we make of our lives, our time and attention will be the primary ingredients employed.
The burden of justification needs to be placed on facts and the people who espouse them. We must demand a compelling answer to the question “why should I give you my time and attention?”
Are these facts relevant to problems we’re solving or goals we’re pursuing?
Does knowledge of these facts empower us to act any differently from what we’re already able or willing to do?
Will discussing these facts require us to take our time and attention away from activities that make us better and happier? Does the discussion offer us anything of equal to greater wealth in return?
If we look in any direction, we’ll observe a ceaseless proliferation of facts. Our world is one in which “the uninformed man” will soon be extinct. The accessibility of information is unprecedented, but so is the opportunity for distraction.
The people who succeed in the information age will be those with clearly defined intentions and a low tolerance for irrelevance.
Fortunately, we get to define what our intentions are and, consequently, what “irrelevant” means.
Let’s just make sure we’re the ones who are doing the defining.