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Making the Most of My Time: Following News

Following Sunday's post, I have decided to review the activities I spent my time on and consider whether these activities add true value.

Today's post will look an my news consumption habits.

Why do we follow the news?

The reasons most people give for watching or reading the news is to be better informed, to be better citizens and understand more about the world.

There was a freakonomics episode about this and basically said these reasons are rubbish and that we do it for entertainment. I have to say that I don't particularly enjoy it.

Past habits

I never really watched the evening news on a regular basis unless I was at my parents. But I did spend lots of time reading newspaper's websites and following folk on twitter. This online browsing did take up a lot of time, but most of it was wasted. I regularly loaded webpages to see if there was anything now. More often than not, there wasn't.

After that freakonomics episode I did significantly drop my consumption. I removed all of my news apps from my phone. I deleted the shortcuts to the news websites. If I wanted to find something out, I had actually put some effort in, rather than just opening them out if habit.

I definitely wen too far.

I was quite happy with this arrangement. For the most part, I didn't care about the short-term stories. I was happy to ignore them. But then there were a few news stories that occurred, and everyone else at work was talking about them and I had no idea what they were talking about. Or I had missed out on something that occurred months ago and it only became apparent when I made a comment and everyone else says "didn't you hear? That place closed three months ago!".

I suppose that my main concern was rather shallow and I didn't want to look silly. But I do think that I was genuinely missing out on important events and information.

Today's habits

I rely on RSS feeds for most of my news these days. I subscribe to companies or institutions that I have a particular interest in. I follow a "daily digest" from a newspaper that summaries the days stories, and I can open any that actually interest me.

I have also subscribed to all news articles on the BBC news website that are tagged with "Scotland". This last one is a bit more like a fire hose, adding many stories to my feed that it can be difficult to keep up. I would like to filter this down further but I don't know how to without missing stories that genuinely interest me.

My ideal solution

In my ideal world, I would be able to filter out stories that will be irrelevant within a year. If articles could get rated on a category of "will I care about this in a years time?". Any articles that are not rated high enough would get ignored or hidden from me.

I know that in some cases, it is impossible to predict how important an individual article will be in the future, but in most cases it would be easy enough to take a good guess. All of the election campaign could probably be ignored, but the final result would be of use.

Though on that thought, every one of my own posts should probably be ignored!

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