I have always been pretty good about not letting social media get in the way of being productive. For whatever reason, I don’t easily fall into the Twitter infinity pool. I discovered in 2020, however, that this super-power does not apply when it comes to the news. Between COVID and everything else 2020 brought, I found myself spinning into multiple hours of reading and consuming news coverage too many times. I thought I had it licked by the end of the year, but last week relieved me of any such delusion.
The Trouble with the News
A certain amount of knowledge of current events is important and can be helpful. From watching the news, I have been inspired to donate money and time to worthwhile causes. I also think it is important, on a personal level, to understand what is going on in the world. When I was growing up, the news was typically a half-hour program viewed by networks as a civic duty more than a profit center.
That has changed however. Now there are fully 24/7 networks on whatever band of the political spectrum you want. These networks are built around the premises of sucking you in and keeping you there. It is very much a profit thing, and they are good at winding you up to stick around for that next segment/hour/day.
While some news is good, too much news is bad. There comes a point where you stop learning about current events and instead become zombified by them. Too much news can poison you.
So I’ve started taking steps. First, I put a box around the news. I try to keep news consumption down to 30 minutes a day. There are lots of ways to do this, but one way I’ve found useful is the Reuters app on the Apple TV. You can log into it and get the day’s news boiled down to as little as 10 minutes. It then gives you a summary of national and world news, and once it finishes, it finishes. It doesn’t ask you to stick around.
Another practice I’ve been working on when watching the news is to do a little internal check-in once I turn the news off. “How am I feeling right now?” “How agitated am I?” “If I’m wound up, is there anything I can do to make a difference?” I also try to disconnect after watching the news. I’ll go make some music, pull some weeds in the garden, or take the dog for a walk. Then I can get back to work with a clear head.
If you’re like me and susceptible to the news infinity pool, take some times to build your own box for the news.