This one is a tricky one, so allow me to explain before you discount the idea. Based on previous blogs, I hope you understand that the title is meant to catch your attention and maybe provoke some thought, but I will do my best, as always, to illustrate my point(s) on this.
I remember I asked my grandfather why he watched the news and read the newspaper every day. I was small kid at the time, and I wanted to know if I was missing out on something that seemed too boring to pay attention to without a good reason. He told me he wanted to keep informed, to “stay up on things” from around the world. I responded with “Why do you care what happens everywhere in the world?” He paused for a moment, searching for an answer…all I got in return was “because I should know what is happening around the world.” I hated vague and undefined answers then and even more now.
We as human being are not built to know everything that is going on all the time. It’s way too much. In my grandfather’s day, he only got news from the TV and from the daily newspaper, so he had certain times where this information was accessible. In today’s world, this is not the case; we are inundated with everything happening everywhere all the time. You have to deploy Selective Ignorance as a survival tactic. I do it, but it took me a while to get this concept dialed in, so allow me to shorten your learning curve to leapfrog your way to a healthier mindset.
I used to follow a lot of people from all walks of life on the socials of the day, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and recently TikTok. There was overlap, as I would follow the same person on each of these platforms, and get triple and quadruple exposure of whatever they posted. This exponential dosage of news (in many cases bad news) was worsening my exposure to things that would tweak my world. It seemed everywhere I turned there was bad news to be found, and it made me feel like the world was becoming more of a scary and bad place all the time. Some of this was my own doing. While yes, there are bad things that happen all the time, and from all around the world, I do not need to know about them. There is no benefit to most of this inundation of information.
I used this example during a talk at ASU a while ago, and it still stands today as a great illustration of what I mean. It must have been a slow news day if this made it to the airwaves, but it did nonetheless. I was watching the news in the early morning before heading to campus to do my talk, and I saw a news story that showed that a racoon was “stuck” on a window ledge of a high rise building in downtown Detroit. Some “concerned citizen” called the fire department and before long they were on the roof trying to “rescue” the racoon from the window ledge. And for the record, the racoon was fast asleep on the window ledge, basically doing things racoons do. But the fire department was now called to save the day and do a risky “rescue” of this poor creature. Needless to say as soon as the fireman got close to him, he woke up and scrambled away from the window ledge. IT’S A RACOON…HE DOESN’T NEED RESCUED!!!
As you can see, I am still not happy about several things about this news story:
–ITS A RACOON…it doesn’t need rescued
–The Fire Dept. wasted time, effort and energy trying to solve this non-problem
–The poor guy who was selected to drop over the edge of the building and try to reach the racoon was in danger for no valid reason
–I live in Phoenix…why on Earth should/would I care or need to be aware of this?
This was actually a turning point for, believe it or not. The absurdity of this situation made me step back and reevaluate my consumption of “news”. I now stop watching the news as soon as the weather is over. There is so much bad news, so little focus on good news, and so much fluff and wasted time that I made the decision to eliminate it from my life. I no longer have the TV on in the background, or at night before I go to bed. If there is a major life altering event that is going on, I am sure I will hear about it through other sources. I also scaled back my social media exposure as part of this. I deleted my Facebook account. I deleted my Twitter account. I am careful to use the algorithms of Instagram and TikTok to bring me information on things I WANT to learn or know about. I follow people that ADD to my overall wellbeing or inform me of something that I can benefit from.
But this applies on a much larger scale than just social media, it applies to life in general. I deploy this tactic of Selective Ignorance to many facets of my life. I pick and choose to associate with people I enjoy being around, who represent themselves well, and who are not going to cause me issues. I cut people out who violate things like my own ethics or moral stances. This includes family members, as I do not tolerate poor behavior, pending arguments, or that cannot have an adult conversation about common topics. I no longer go to certain people’s homes during the holidays, put on a happy face, and pretend that everything is okay. It isn’t…and I have already wasted too much time doing this to appease others. Some people will never like you, or vice versa, and that is just the way it is. Your positive energy conflicts with their negative energy, and there is no rectifying that. Cut them out of your life, it is the easiest way.
Another example of Selective Ignorance is comparing my life to others. I deliberately choose to not compare my life to others, as we A. didn’t start at the same place and B. don’t have the same goals in the end. How can I compare myself to another when the rules of the game are different for each of us? HOW CAN YOU? Think about that…I mean really think about it. The next time you catch yourself parking next to someone who has the Tesla that you think you want, ask this question: Do I know the whole story? Maybe they are eyeball deep in debt, driving for Uber on the weekends just to make payments on that car. Maybe they are filthy rich but absolutely miserable, ready to drive that car off a cliff if one more negative thing happens to them. Emotions like this are data, not directives. Don’t think you need to run out and purchase a car you can’t afford just to feel better about yourself. Instead, look into why you think you need this car to feel good about yourself. Do you really want to spend your life and your money trying to impress a whole bunch of people you will never meet? The answer is an emphatic NO.
The older you get, the easier using Selective Ignorance becomes. Believe it or not, you will reach a point where you no longer care to be seen at the WM Open, or at the club on Friday night. Your priorities will change, as they should. You’ll get a real job, have kids, a mortgage, etc. and suddenly much of the things you spent so much time worrying about just don’t have near the weight to them as they used to. This is called maturity, lie it or not. :-) At my age, I don’t do near as much socially as I used to, and I certainly don’t go to brunch unless I have to. I may not set foot in a nightclub again if I can help it. I am happily married, don’t drink, and don’t want to yell at people trying to have a conversation over loud music. Laugh all you want, but you’ll say the same thing someday. The real question is…if you are going to end up there anyway, why not start sooner and make your life that much easier?
Exit the mainstream and stop following the herd, they don’t know where they are going and they don’t have your best interest at heart. They aren’t even aware of it, and they don’t care if you try to keep up or not.