Choose Your Ignorance

As I wrote in a previous post:

We live in an age where no-one has an excuse for not knowing something of interest to them.

After thinking on this idea further, I’ve come to realize an important corollary:

In the 21st century, a particular hallmark of mental health is the ability to deliberately choose one’s ignorance.

Conversely, the inability to draw boundaries around what knowledge one finds important enough to pursue leads to wasting time on absorbing information that ultimately has little payoff with respect to one’s values. I can’t say how many times it’s occurred to me that I can now easily discover the answer to something I’ve always wanted to know. And then, intending to spend only a couple minutes looking up the answer, I spend an hour or more reading not only the answer to my question, but a plethora of tenuously-related background information and trivia.

There is an overwhelming amount of “junk information” on the Internet– much of it interesting, entertaining or even potentially useful. But just as junk food must be limited in the name of physical health, I look over my extensive collection of interesting bookmarks with the growing realization that I should never consume many of these sites if I want to have the time to actually produce things that I think are important.

So, when a friend tells you about a new web comic, or research paper, or technology, or news item, or blog, I think it should become a point of pride to be able to say, “Thanks, but I’m going to remain ignorant of that.”

Oh, and happy 40th birthday to me. :)

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