Reading free writing is like eating McDonald’s

I feel like I’m at a distinct advantage. I pay for almost everything I read.

Yes, I read a lot of tweets, and the occasional free news article. But almost all of the reading I do is of Kindle books that I buy.

I read almost no blogs. The quality of free information on the web keeps declining. The only way to do it sustainably is to attract eyeballs and then sell those eyeballs to Pepsi or Gillette or some other advertiser.

As a writer, I know that if you need to attract eyeballs, your writing suffers. You resort to prodding readers for their ugliest emotions. You might even resort to downright lies.

Getting all of your writing for free is like eating every meal at McDonald’s. You saw what happened to Morgan Spurlock when he ate McDonald’s for 30 days on Super Size Me. He gained weight, his cholesterol skyrocketed, he accumulated fat on his liver. It took fourteen months to undo the damage created in one month.

Back when I did lots of free reading, I suffered similar ailments, but of my brain. I became paranoid and lonely. I had difficulty concentrating. The eyeball economy was frying my brain: Everybody became an enemy, because animosity attracts eyeballs. I couldn’t focus because the more you fragment someone’s attention, the more times per minute you can sell their eyeballs.

When I stopped reading free stuff and started paying for my reading, everything changed. I stopped being hooked on Facebook. I started thinking things through. I started to question my initial reactions to what I read.

As a reader, I now had an honest relationship with my writers. I paid them for their writing, and they wrote things I liked to read. Their writing wasn’t a tactic to hack my behavior. I took care of them, and they took care of me.

Something to think about: Where do you get the words you read? Are your words factory-farmed, or are they free-range? Do you know your writer? I think if you keep asking yourself these questions, you’ll find your way to a healthier version of you, in a healthier society.

Author, ‘Mind Management, Not Time Management’ Former design & productivity advisor to Timeful (Google acq’d).

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