In this post, you’re probably going to figure out who I voted for at the top of the ticket. OK, I’ll tell you: Hillary Clinton. For those of you who take issue with that choice, spoiler alert: don’t care.
It’s tempting to make an continuous effort to stay informed, to read commentary from multiple perspectives on a regular basis, to engage with others on news topics in a civil manner. But when the information, regarding a specific event (i.e. a mass shooting) or something more broad (uh, our new presidential administration) elicits a particularly negative emotional response, ignoring it and focusing on something else isn’t always easy or possible. (Post-election stress, anyone?)
So I propose the news detox. Give yourself the opportunity to step away from news media and random articles and commentary for an hour, half the day, a whole day, a weekend… however long you need to recover from the bullshit so that you can continue to think critically and re-engage with your work and life.
You’ve probably heard of a digital detox, a treatment for the information overload caused by a constant barrage of push notifications, alerts, messages, phone calls, and material shared of this day and age. A digital detox requires an individual to completely disconnects from her digital devices so that she is able to reconnect with and gain a new perspective on the world without the lens of social media and digital distractions. Ditch your devices and the disturbances to your attention that they lob, and after a period of time (a day, a weekend, a week, etc.) you’ll find yourself more clear-minded.
But we can’t all participate in the somewhat drastic digital detox on a daily basis when we want to scream upon hearing about yet another executive order. I need the internet to do work, damn it!
A news detox in action:
- Don’t read news articles or commentary.
- Don’t listen to or watch the news.
- Keep your phone on but don’t dick around on social media or news apps.
- Manage your push notifications so that you’re not bombarded with alerts.
- Don’t engage with others on these topics during detox time.
This concept came to fruition for me personally on Nov. 9, when I could not handle the world. I normally listen to NPR for much of my workday and get news from the media outlets I follow on Twitter. Engaging with either seemed counterproductive to my anxiety levels when feeling so overwhelmed and hopeless in the aftermath of that election cycle. So instead, I:
- Listened to podcasts that aren’t overtly political (come back soon, #girlboss Radio!)
- Cranked classical music from the local public radio station
- Found aspirationally healthy recipes for meals that I may or may not one day prepare
- Did some wedding planning, the is the time suck of all time sucks. The wedding industrial complex is good for something. (Note: I’m not engaged. More on that later.)
I am in no way suggesting that through a news detox, you completely disconnect with news media indefinitely so that you make all decisions on purchases and civic engagement based on hearsay and the questionable advice of others. Clearly enough of that happens in this world. We absolutely need to stay informed about so many topics at all times, particularly in this period of dysfunction. But your mental health and stress levels don’t need to suffer as a result.
I’ve slowly begun to listen to NPR again, but now am more aware of when I need a damn break from the bullshit. The voice of Sean Spicer sometimes sends me into the kitchen (located seven steps away from my desk because I work from home) to grab a handful of carbs to shove down my trap between exasperated sighs and swears. Some days, my elevated stress level force me listen to Spotify’s “old school metal” playlist rather than read the Washington Post. And then other days, I am civically engaged.
If we’re going to be productive, well-informed human beings, we need to be deliberate about our news consumption. That includes taking a break when necessary, and accepting the fact that we do at times need this break in order to strengthen our ability to think critically and determine necessary next steps to effect positive change.
Bad decisions will continue to be made by elected officials, bad things will continue to happen in the world, bad things will continue to be said – and reports and commentary on these topics will be there when you come back from a news detox.