Ever since about 5am on the day after the Brexit referendum, I haven’t watched TV news, intentionally looked at a newspaper or any news website. I’ve gone out of my way to avoid every possible source of news.
You might gather I don’t like the way some of the news is going at the moment and that’s true, but there is always a tidal wave of bad news coming and this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The reason for that is simply that I was becoming anxious about various news topics that I couldn’t control. I was addicted to news and it was making me ill. I would waste time and energy fretting about things that typically didn’t affect me very much. I decided that I was better off not following what happens from day to day. I will end up finding out the important stuff from other people or sources.
It has been a great thing and I have no intention of returning to my news reading habit, I really do worry less, sleep better and enjoy my life more now.
I worry that I will probably miss something worthwhile, some opportunity that I should pursue or some piece of news that really requires me to do something. However I can’t think of any example from my life where anything I read about in the news lead to anything significant. My job, home, friends and hobbies have all developed completely independently of knowledge of current affairs. It’s almost too obvious to point out, but the habit of seeking news is so deeply embedded in our society that it does need to be said.
To achieve news blackout I have developed the following behaviours:
- mute the TV before turning it on, in case it’s tuned to current affairs
- stop listening to the radio completely, listen only to podcasts
- look away from newspaper stands in shops
- tell my family and friends I don’t want to discuss current affairs
- visit only fun websites that have very little news content (like Reddit), sports news (e.g. by searching) and technology related news sites/link aggregators (like Hacker News)
- on my iPad and iPhone, turn off all the news widgets and apps so that nothing flashes up on my screen while I’m searching and browsing
- while browsing the web, use “reader” mode in the browser, so that I only see the article I’m reading and not clickbait links to news stories
I have already had to go cold turkey on social media due an addiction to those. If I was still on Twitter and Facebook I imagine they would have to go too.
I know this is quite extreme, but the fact I’m willing to go to these lengths may tell you how bad an effect news was formerly having on me.
For the most part this has worked and I have only found out about huge stories and pretty much avoided all the noise.
Some of the definite disadvantages I can think of are
- I used to be occasionally shamed into giving money to charity by seeing misfortune in the news. I will need to develop a regular habit of giving to charity instead.
- I cannot talk about news socially any more. Luckily I very rarely did, but I imagine that some day it will be unavoidable and may lead to more anxiety and awkwardness. Time will tell.
- I am completely cut off from other types of information that is generally communicated along with news I want to avoid, such as music, books, TV, local events, etc. I have to rely on other people to let me know what I might be interested in.
Anyway in summary feeling powerless make me feel miserable, so now I ignore the day to day humdrum of current affairs and try to concentrate on things I can control. It have freed up time and mental energy for being a better dad, husband, son, friend and employee and so I would recommend to anybody to give it a go, especially if you are feeling a little bit like I did.
I would recommend to anybody to read Avoid News - Towards a Healthy News Diet by Rolf Dobelli. It is a very well reasoned explanation of aspects of the above.