Breaking news: Live events defer your life!

Live events have a mystery about them. They appeal to your attraction for the unknown. They give you the high of watching something unfold in front of you. You have a sense of being the first to know before others do. An elite group. On the flip side, missing a live event can induce FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out. You feel terrible that others got to know something that you don’t. And that you’d be the last to know.

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, natural calamity rescue operator or someone from the weather bureau watching the progress of a devastating cyclone or a tsunami, you don’t really 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. They take their time to get to the meat of the show. These are shows targeted at software developers who don’t don’t care about how many phones the company sold and how much their business expanded. This content is best kept for shareholder meetings.
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 with corners and throw-ins. 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 intra-day. “You may miss a golden opportunity if you take your eyes off”, is what they have to say.

Add up all the tiny or huge 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 didn’t watch Barcelona v/s Real Madrid last night at 2 am and your friends ridicule you, calling you a sleepyhead? You slept 2 – 3 hours more than your friends did and you 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.

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 than the live session isn’t going to change your tax liability. How bad is it if you read some news from a newspaper next day instead of watching ‘breaking news’? Should you watch news at all?

Most live events hold your time to ransom without being truly valuable. Your precious schedule against their priorities. Before you schedule, please 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 was addicted to live sports and would stay up nights to watch my favourite games. During the cricket world cup in the Caribbean, 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 in the world cup. Despite my addiction, I passed up the option in favour of reading the scorecard the next day. A short two line scorecard indicating that Bangladesh beat Bermuda and that India were out was enough for me to decide if I should watch that world cup any further.

This is most likely true for every live event. Instead of sitting through Google I/O, I get more valuable information from smart bloggers who write awesome 1000-word articles like ’12 important announcements Google made at I/O’. After the dust settles on an election, simply learning who the nation’s leader in will suffice. Tax breaks are best learnt from infographics in blogs and newspapers.

How about following live text commentary on the Internet?

Sports events and some other live events have this trendy feature. Instead of watching visuals, you can follow a text-only commentary online. The idea is that you come back to the open page with live updates every few minutes, so that you aren’t hooked to a screen or a stage. Followers imagine that they efficiently multitask. Performing their primary work for four minutes, then coming back to live updates for a minute to see what went on since their last glance. I have two problems with this.

First, performing your primary work in four minute bursts does not qualify as deep work. You cannot dive into a focused zone in just four minutes. You are distracted with your impulse to follow the live commentary. This task switching causes severe impairment to your primary work.

Second, I see what I call the “just checking if it’s working” syndrome. If the followers do not see any updates during their next check, their anxiety goes through the roof. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing no updates from a live event. The desperate follower hits the refresh button twice or thrice in rapid succession to check if things are working fine. It’s like being promised a dopamine hit, but not getting any. Let’s say it’s not a nice way to live your life. It is better to steer clear of live text commentary.

A unique example

An excellent example in the beauty & the power of curated highlights was presented to us during our marriage (Priya & I). We had some seriously professional videographers, who were extremely talented and creative. When they were done, they gave us 2 video DVDs and 3 photo DVDs. However one of the video DVDs has a unique file. It’s a six and a half minute highlights video of the pre-nuptial, reception and marriage ceremonies together. What a way to showcase a 30-hour occasion! The file is so small that I uploaded it on Facebook and YouTube. Yet, scenes from every important ritual has been covered, making an excellent intro to a Tamil Brahmin community marriage. Friends who couldn’t make it to the occasion enjoyed the short video. Teaches 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 here: Hari Priya Marriage Highlights!


Live events may be exciting, but watching things live is often unnecessary. So, 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.

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Harikrishna Natrajan

Unleashing life's full potential

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