Breaking news: Live events defer your life!

Live events have an element of mystery. They appeal to your craving for the unknown. They give you the high of watching something unfold in front of you.  On the flip side, missing a live event can induce FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out. You feel terrible that others get to know something that you don’t.

Personally, I feel that the importance of live events is overrated. Knowing things as they happen is irrelevant. Unless you are a day stock trader, war strategist or natural calamity rescue operator, you don’t need live information. That’s why I have stopped watching live events. And perhaps you should too. I have also talked against live events in a previous post, The magic of planning for the next day.

Here’s why live events should not be part of your schedule – EVER!

They take too long to get to the good parts.

Giant software live events like Google I/O and Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference start with statistics over the past year and how their ‘business grew’. Well, these are events targeted at software developers who don’t care about how many phones the company sold and how much their business expanded. That type of content is best kept for shareholder meetings. So move on, will you?

Yaaaaawn! Really, Tim. I don’t care about how Apple is dominating the universe. Please get on with what features have been introduced in the latest Xcode.
That goes for you too, Sundar! Will you talk about the next sweet dish named release already?

Live cricket test matches can put you to sleep with their snail’s pace. Football matches have their moments with injured players and teams winding down the clock. Even the usually fast-paced NBA games have strategic time-outs that you can safely pass. I have never understood why election campaigns and ballot counting tickers are watched live at all when only the final results matter. Then we have stock market addicts who keep watching the latest stock prices, even though they aren’t trading intraday. “You may miss a golden opportunity if you take your eyes off”, is what they have to say.

Add up all the blocks of wasted time and you can actually have one big block worth scheduling your life’s important goals.

Watching real-time may be an overkill given the real importance

What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t watch Barcelona v/s Real Madrid at 2 am and your friends rave about it? You slept 2 – 3 hours more than your friends did and did your health a big favour. If the match was so interesting, check the highlights on YouTube. Or… on second thoughts, learn why you shouldn’t watch sports. You should play them.

What’s the worst that can happen if you missed the ‘important’ live telecast budget session in the parliament? Learning about tax breaks from a blog two hours later isn’t going to change your tax liability. How bad is it if you read some news from a newspaper the next day instead of watching ‘breaking news’? Should you watch the news at all?

Is this really more valuable than your night’s sleep?

Most live events hold your time to ransom without being truly valuable. Your precious schedule against their priorities. Before you schedule, check if it is truly valuable to you. And don’t hesitate walking away from a live event if it doesn’t meet your expectation.

Often, the curated summary is more valuable

In 2007, I would stay up nights to watch my favourite games in the cricket world cup in the Caribbean, which is 12 hours behind India’s time zone. In their last match, India lost to Sri Lanka, but still stood a chance to progress if Bermuda were to beat Bangladesh. It was tempting to watch a live match that could determine India’s fate. Despite my addiction, I passed up the option in favour of sleeping, deciding to read the scorecard the next day. A short two-line scorecard indicating that Bangladesh beat Bermuda and that India was out of the world cup was enough to decide if I should watch the competition any further.

This is true for all live events. Instead of sitting through the couple of 12-hour Google I/O days, I get valuable information from smart bloggers who write short 1000-word articles like ’12 important announcements that Google made at I/O’. After the dust settles on an election, simply learning who the nation’s leader is will suffice. Tax breaks are best learnt from infographics in blogs and newspapers, rather than from a live budget session.

Live budget vs neatly summarised infographic. Which is more useful to you?
How about following live text commentary on the Internet?

Instead of displaying video, sports websites offer live text-only commentary of games. You keep a web page with live updates open. While working on something else, you return to the page every few minutes to view the latest scoresheet along with text summary of important events as they happen. Similar text commentary is also offered for ‘important’ events like the Prime Minister’s speech on national TV.

It’s only an illusion that live text commentary allows you to work on something important at the same time that you are following a game.

Followers of such pages like to imagine that they efficiently multitask. For every five minutes of work, they perform their primary task, e.g. programming, reading a report, for four minutes, and then glance at the web page with live updates for a minute.

I have two problems with this.

Performing your primary task in four-minute bursts does not qualify as deep work. You hardly get anything done. The rapid task switching causes severe impairment to your primary work.

It is extremely frustrating to see no updates from a live event. If the web page has no updates for more than a minute, the desperate follower hits the refresh button twice or thrice in rapid succession to check if the Internet connection and the page are working fine. It’s like being promised a dopamine hit, but not getting any.

A unique example of curation

An excellent example of the beauty of curated highlights was presented to us during our marriage (Priya & I).

We had some seriously professional videographers, who specialise in wedding and travel. When they were done, they gave us 2 video DVDs and 3 photo DVDs. One of the video DVDs has a unique file, which is a six and a half minute highlights video of the pre-nuptial, reception and marriage ceremonies put together. What a way to showcase a 30-hour occasion!

The file is so small that it took only 5 minutes to upload on Facebook and YouTube. Yet, scenes from every important ritual have been covered, making an excellent introduction to a Tamil Brahmin community marriage.

Friends who couldn’t make it to the occasion enjoyed the short video. Teachers from my school days, who are connected to me on Facebook, were overjoyed to see our big day. It’s genius from our videographer friends. You can watch the highlights on Facebook here.


Live events may be exciting, but watching things live is often unnecessary. The next time someone advertises or advises, “Don’t miss it LIVE”, you can probably respond, “Thank you very much, but I’ll wait for the curated re-run!” You will thank yourself too, for the huge bulk of time saved and put to real use.

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Harikrishna Natrajan

Unleashing life's full potential

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