Whilst social media with its user generated content has resulted in an explosion of content such as blogs and podcasts from practitioners, hitherto restricted by mainstream media controlling what we consume, it has also meant that we need to work that much harder to filter for good content. But why should we bother filtering and not simply consume as much as we can? This blog at Farnam street shares insights from the 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer about why it is equally important to avoid consuming bad content.

First, there is only so much time: “Schopenhauer’s solution to clickbait is a form of inversion — the best way to read better is to avoid reading junk. In his words, we should make it a rule to “never to read what is bad; for life is short, and both time and strength limited.”

Second, what you read is raw material for your thoughts and eventually actions:

“If you think of your mind as a factory for producing insights, consider reading the raw material. Just as a factory needs high-quality raw materials to produce great products, so does your mind. Without great raw material, even the best factory grinds to a halt.

The opportunity cost of consuming second-rate writing is higher than ever. In a world where more great writing is available than any human could read in a lifetime, it pays to be ruthless in filtering what you won’t read. Your attention is a precious resource; invest it wisely.”

The blog gives some practical tips to curate our information diet:

“If a headline is engineered to generate clicks rather than convey information, stay away. Likewise, if you land on a page with flashing ads and auto-playing videos, close the browser and move on. Beware of writing that promises easy answers to hard problems. Any article that claims to reveal the secret to anything is almost certainly peddling simplistic thinking. Reality is messy and multi-faceted; writing that pretends otherwise is shallow or dishonest. Another warning sign you’re reading something with low information density is when it’s full of jargon or is evasive…

  • Avoid news and read old biographies. Schopenhauer explains, “The best works come from the time when they had to write either for nothing or for very little pay.”
  • Regularly curate your social media feed. Regularly reviewing who provides the raw material of your mind allows you to regularly upgrade your supplies.
  • Work on your own writing. As your writing improves, not only will you learn to convey information effectively, but you’ll also develop an aversion to low-quality sources of information. After all, writing is thinking”

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Note: the above material is neither investment research, nor financial advice. Marcellus does not seek payment for or business from this publication in any shape or form. Marcellus Investment Managers is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India as a provider of Portfolio Management Services. Marcellus Investment Managers is also regulated in the United States as an Investment Advisor.

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