I used to be a copy editor at a newspaper, and for years, there were a few days every week when I created the front page of a newspaper seen by thousands of people. My professional life quite literally revolved around local, state, national and world news. I was a news person.
When politics and Covid hysteria were making me angry and anxious all the time last spring, I decided I wanted to have a better life than that. I made a fairly radical decision for a news person. I quit the news.
Yeah, really. I quit. I don’t read, I don’t listen, I don’t follow, I don’t doom-scroll, I don’t read the comments on news posts. I quit.
Almost a year into this strategy, I can tell you that you can’t escape news altogether in our society unless you truly live under a rock with no electricity and no human contact. Quitting news while living your normal life isn’t a path to total ignorance. I see things, people say things, and then maybe I do a little research. And that’s good! I do not ever advocate total ignorance. (Come on, I used to work in news! Please, please do not seek total ignorance.) But I’m not drowning in distressing, unhappy, panic-inducing news because I’ve chosen to not have a constant, unchecked flood of it rolling past my eyes and into my ears.
This strategy actually works for me. I don’t feel clueless, but I’m not overwhelmed, either. I’ve discovered that the news still exists if I learn about something two days after it happened — but by then, there’s also some perspective available instead of breathless moment-to-moment updates alone. I also gain the benefit of not having wasted hours hitting refresh to get up-to-the-moment breathless updates as they arrived. Because, let’s face it, the news may have an effect on us, but the vast majority of it is not immediately actionable to us. Does it really matter if you learn about it now or next Friday? No. It doesn’t, because you’re not going to do anything about it before 8 p.m. tonight anyway.
I still learn what I want to know. But I’m incredibly picky about it. I limit my consumption, I get my questions answered, and then — oh, look, it’s sunny outside and I have important things to do out there! I’m out the door.
So, in these days of “amen, awoman” and the debacle I’ve heard is in progress in Washington, I’m not watching the news, but I sure can’t say I feel I’m missing out. In fact, I’d say I’m getting more of the good stuff: news with a little perspective, plus an opportunity to live my life.
Feeling angry and anxious too? Try quitting the news. It can’t hurt.