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7 Months Without Junk Media

July 28, 2020

In a previous post, I wrote about how certain media mediums decrease my quality of life. My experiments suggested the effects are cumulative so for the last 7 months I have disconnected[1] from news, social media, videogames, forums[2], web surfing and streaming video[3].

The positive effects are indeed cumulative. I feel like I have more time. I am more creative. I even feel less conformist. I invent new ideas instead of parroting the news story of the day. This effect is especially cumulative. I get more sensitive to how media brainwashes me as the months of abstinance accumulate.

Here are some other changes I experienced over the last 7 months.

Sleep

Junk media gives me insomnia. My insomnia always goes away within 1 week of abstinence. The problem has not returned during 6 months of abstinence.

Even without insomnia, I tend to go to sleep around 2-3 am and wake up around 11 am. I predicted (incorrectly) that long-term abstinence would bring circadian rhythm closer in line with the day night cycle. This has not happened.

Education

Before this experiment it took lots of willpower to study things like physics. I have a longer attention span now. I relax by training skills and learning things.

I had to temporarily stop studying quantum field theory because it has become too addictive. This vice appears limited to theoretical physics and junk media. No other subjects have triggered such intensity of addictive behavior.

Theoretical physics aside, I like getting smarter by default.

Self-Care

I have a garden. I exercise regularly. I write a lot. I cook good food by default. Though self-employed, my productivity at work remains unchanged.

Socialization

Abstaining from junk media seems to increase my socialization from "almost none" to "a little bit" but it's hard to tell due to the confounding effects of COVID-19. Socializing makes me happier.

Cleaning

When I begin abstaining from junk media I usually get a small bump to my tidiness. I predicted (incorrectly) this effect would become more pronounced over time. My tidiness stayed about the same for 6 months. Then in month 7, I spontaneously became a cleanly person for the first time in my life. I hope this continues.

Stress

The common thread is lower overall stress. I have lower overall sympathetic nervous system activation. This could be the root cause of my lengthened attention span and reduced insomnia.

Conclusion

I consider this project a success. It is time for a new experiment. In addition to my existing abstinance from junk media, I hereby commit myself to 6 months without webcomicsand blogs[4], dance, research, instructional video and video watched with friends. I predict this will increase my original creative output in these domains.

Questions

What about educational video?

My experiments showed infotainment video to be a net negative on my intelligence and quality of life. Recorded college lectures, while nominally educational, are too information-sparse for me to learn from.

Are you afraid that by abstaining from news you might miss out on important events?

No. In the last 7 months, exactly two important newsworthy events happened: COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter. I did not miss out on either of them.

News distracts you from getting smarter.


[1] There are exceptions: Anything enjoyed with a friend is allowed. Instructional videos are allowed. Anything created by a friend is allowed. Foreign language media is allowed. Research is allowed.

[2] Except Less Wrong, where I used to blog.

[3] Except music & dance.

[4] Including Less Wrong.