How I Decide What to Read Online

Photo by Mauro Lima on Unsplash

My time is precious. I don’t have much time to read so I try to be selective with what I read (without being overbearing).

I apply these rules to my own online reading. This article specifically pertains to online reading as offline reading is substantially easier to avoid. I don’t find many newspapers on my 6th floor doorstep.

I don’t have too many guidelines, because I try to internalize them as habits more than structure them into an elaborate strategy. The first rule I have is no news. If there are articles, clippings or sites where I find a subset of the news I like to read about I’ll make an exception, but any site that is a 24-hour news site is a hard pass.

That is the only rule that applies to online publications categorically. The rest pertain to individual articles. Does the article promise to make big changes to my life in the title? If so, I’m out. I’ve spent the first 3 decades of my life trying to create my identity and figure out the structures that I want and do-not-want to put into place in my life. The chance of a random article on-line solving an underlying problem or improving an aspect of my life considerably is very low. It can happen, but I don’t personally find that that’s correlated too highly with an article that promises 5 things I can do right now to improve my life. Similarly, I’m out on any kind of hack. I do believe that improving life is about making incremental improvements, seeing what sticks, what doesn’t and adjusting on the fly. I find most of these hacks are either repeated between articles or irrelevant to my life or distracting from the problems I personally need to solve.

The next rule I apply to what I read online is — does the article headline make an assumption about me and tell me why I am good/bad/other or why I need to do x or stop y? I’ll rely on the people in my life, books, and introspection to tell me where I need to improve. Anything in this family of articles on the internet I avoid like the plague. These strangers don’t know anything about me, so why do I need them to tell me anything about myself?

Apart from these rules, I try to notice patterns. The older I get, the more I pay attention to who is writing what I’m reading. I’m trying more and more to follow writers. I don’t have time to vet every blogger out there, so if I find something I don’t like by an author, I stop reading that author by default.

If that pattern continues across an online publication or community, I stop reading the publication. This doesn’t mean that I only read things that I agree with. There are multitudes of sources on the internet. If I choose not to read left- or right-leaning site x, there are plenty of other sites offering compelling perspectives on whichever topic I’m looking to read up on.

The reason I make decisions about what I read online is because the amount of time available to me is finite. I’d rather be in control of my time and what I read so I can grow how I want to grow, rather than stumble around the internet reacting to this, linking to that and logging off feeling more empty than I felt when I started.

If you found this helpful…