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Day 6

Staying Up-To-Date With News, Friends & Interests On Your Terms

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The world is made up of connections, of people like you and me and the relationships we have as humans. In days gone by communities used to stay up to date with what's going on by word of mouth, and gossip remains prevalent in today's society too.

So what is behind this burning desire to stay up to date? Why do we open our newsfeeds and browse mindlessly for hours each day? Are we really in control of our time and our behaviours, or are we doing it all on someone else's terms?

Technology has evolved dramatically since the turn of the century and smartphones have left us more 'connected' than ever. Yet singer/songwriter Jon Bellion puts it best when he says:

"See I got GPS on my phone
And I can follow it to get home
If my location's never unknown
Then tell me why I still feel lost
Tell me why I still feel lost"

– Jon Bellion

Technology, despite its great promise, doesn't solve our problems all on its own. But really, when we think about it, it never was going to.

Technology is yet another tool at our disposal, one we can either use mindlessly and dangerously (picture wielding any other tool, like a saw, without thinking) or use to create a better outcome.

The problem is, often those with the power in tech have very different incentives to those it affects. They're not wielding the tool mindlessly, but to create a better outcome for them.

Sean Parker, who played a pivotal role in Facebook's success, recently admitted: “The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, …was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’”

If we have this deep desire to be connected with both those around us and the wider world, how can we stay up to date on our terms?

Strategies

Staying up to date with our friends

Many of us like to stay up to date with what our many hundreds of friends are doing and how their lives are going. We act as stalkers of those we kind-of-knew, whilst their highlight reels flash up on the screens illuminating the dark rooms of our lives.

You see, research has shown that social media tools like Facebook aren't healthy, in fact they can often be damaging to our mental health.

So here's a novel thought. Try deleting Facebook's app from your phone. Maybe give it a shot up until Christmas, or just this week if that feels too much. If you're feeling brave, go ahead and temporarily deactivate your account. Sure, there’ll be FOMO and going cold turkey is never easy, but I did this back in 2012 after noticing my addiction and have never looked back.

For me, friendships are about meeting those you love and spending time with them. It was never meant to be about observing their highlights reel. Relationships are meant to be real and vulnerable not polished and superficial.

So maybe, in the build up to this Christmas, try meeting up with a friend you've lost touch with, or if that feels a little too much, give someone a ring. You'll have more than enough time now you've stopped mindlessly scrolling through Facebook.

Worried you’ll miss out on events? If community events are your thing, check out Meetup.com. If it’s organising meeting up with friends, group chats on Whatsapp are a good stepping stone. Yes, it’s owned by Facebook, but it demands a lot less of your time. Signal and Telegram are more privacy conscious options, but will likely require you convincing your friends to install yet another app.

Staying up to date with specific interests

Outside of staying up to date with friends, many of us like to stay up to date with specific topics we're interested in. Be it sport, technology or financial markets.

Twitter is a go-to tool for many of us. It’s powerful as it enables and encourages us to follow anything we're interested, rather than just what our friends are up to. But Twitter can be addictive too, and sometimes all we want it to keep tabs on what those we're following are sharing.

Thankfully Nuzzel exists for that. Nuzzel enables you to get an email once a week or once a day with the highlights of what your twitter feed have been sharing. Now you can catch the highlights without the endless scrolling.

Staying up to date with current events

Keeping up to date with important goings on in the world can be a right drag sometimes. From endless negative news to irrelevant filler stories, old school news isn't cutting it anymore.

The more recent take on the news is endless notifications, a bomb going off over there, mixed in with the top 10 ways to get that bikini body ready for the summertime.

It leaves many of us simply wanting to know the highlights of what's going on in the world as we live out our busy daily lives. Thankfully as in any good capitalist society, the market goes where the demand is.

There's been a noticeable surge of movement in the news space in the past year or two, here's a few highlights that can alleviate your FOMO without the overwhelm:

Quartz Brief
Quartz Brief is a mobile app with a chat interface, enabling you to read the news like you were talking to a friend (though it's not your friend, but a robot).

The Skimm
The Skimm offer a daily newsletter that hits your inbox each AM, giving you all the news and info you need to start your day.

The Dot
The Dot is a minimal daily news app that helps you build a healthy news habit with just one digest a day, nothing more. * — Full disclosure, I'm one of the co-founders of The Dot.

Final words

Throughout today's post we've explored the different ways to change your behaviour and bring it in line with how you really want to spend your time and live your life. But these are just suggestions. You may love browsing through newsfeeds or getting notifications when certain events happen. That's cool too.

The main thing is being mindful and intentional about how you use the tools available to you, so you can shape the parts of life you do control to help create a happier, healthier you.

Further reading

Guest author

Fred Rivett

Today's article was written by Fred Rivett. Fred is Co-founder and Tech Lead at The Dot, a minimal daily news app mindful of your attention; and co-author of Learning To Launch.

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