our informed inaction paradox

The other day, I found out I was uninformed.

And I think it’s by design.


Warning: unpopular opinion ahead…

Just because news can be consumed hourly or even daily, it doesn’t mean we should.

In fact, constant consumption of unactionable content can leave you less prepared than before.

Informed but frozen

This is one of the most common objections I hear at the suggestion of a news diet:

“But what happens if a disaster strikes and you need to take action quickly?”

Being able to react quickly in times of crisis is a good motivation.

However, how much of what we consume is actionable?

The Cost of Being Informed

And here’s the thing,

Constantly monitoring the pulse of the world’s tragedies makes it more likely that we will do nothing when the opportunity to make a difference arises.


the cost of learned helplessness

Because constantly consuming media that’s distressing but not actionable puts us in a state of learned helplessness.

Put simply, if we build a habit of consumption without taking action, that will become our default.

We will start to believe that the world is a tragic place and there is nothing we can do about it.

finding the balance

However, we also don’t want to become oblivious to the world around us.

Let’s explore some tactics to avoid learned helplessness while staying informed.


Try this experiment for a week or two and perhaps any other time you feel like the news is getting you down.

1. Internal proposition:

Before double clicking on a headline or a thumbnail, write down the following template and fill in the blanks

“By consuming this media, I want to understand _ so that I can _

e.g. “By consuming this media, I want to understand where the conflict is happening so I know where to contribute my $300 donation.”

After you consume the content, revisit the above internal proposition.

Did you get what you needed from the news?

If so, then you can take action. Be sure to note it down on your to-do list and give yourself a big pat on the back when it gets done!

2. Monitor:

Track how much time you spend consuming the news. At the end of the week, look at your total consumption.

Also, look at your collection of internal propositions. How many of them were satisfied by the time you invested in consuming the news?

Where it Gets Hard

And, yeah, I know.

In the short run, it’s easier to avoid the above experiment.

the benefits of the news diet

However, if you try the experiment, you might find that the amount of news you consume is not pulling its weight in terms of contributing to your life nor helping the victims of the tragedies of the world.

When I did a less articulate form of the experiment many years ago, I was shocked by how much opportunity was lost consuming the news that is made up of mostly ephemeral, transient and, worst of all, unactionable content.

Now, I use the internal proposition with most kinds of content to invest my limited time and attention to the things that matter the most to me.

I hope it helps you do the same.

If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

but why the why?
why I fire a grudges
I escaped inbox hell