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How to Keep News from Monopolizing Your Life

I haven’t read the news regularly in a year or so and I never watch the news on TV.

At a time when I was really struggling with distraction and anxiety I found that the constant feed of noise and depressing garbage didn’t help. Weird, right?

So one day I deleted all of my news apps from my phone and turned off all my email news alerts as an experiment, just to see how hard it would be to live without the news in my life.

How long would it take before I became an uninformed leech on society?

Would I even be able to survive not knowing if Donald Trump said something awful in the past 24 hours? (Turns out he did and I didn’t need a news alert to inform me).

Would the New York Times continue to exist without my annual $96 contribution?

So yeah, I turned it all off and canceled some subscriptions, and I figured like with most things, I’d be back again before long. Or I’d slowly let the news trickle back in, but this time I’d be more organized or disciplined about my consumption.

I was wrong on both accounts.

I never turned any of it back on again.

And I don’t miss it at all.

I went from chasing a dragon to slaying that same dragon in an afternoon, and the interesting thing is that it bothered me how easy it was to quit, which is a totally normal thing to be bothered by. Right? Why couldn’t I just be happy about the fact that news no longer dominated my life?

How to Stay Informed Without Being Owned By the News Rat Race

I couldn’t figure out how I was suddenly ok without the constant stream of dopamine and adrenaline into my brain. Shouldn’t I have been missing the news more than I was?

I also couldn’t figure out why it didn’t bother me more that I was becoming an uninformed slug. Where was my sense of civic responsibility?

But after several months of self-observation I started to realize that I wasn’t uninformed at all. In fact, short of living in a shanty in the Yukon Territories in a polar bear commune there’s literally no way to “hide” from the news in 2019. Hell, even in remote Canada Verizon can probably “hear you now”.

Important stories and updates will always bubble up in one way or another. A friend will send a text, news will crop up in a social feed, or someone will mention the latest happenings in a casual conversation.

Things that matter will eventually get our attention. They just will. And they will without us seeking them out in any way. Or that’s been my experience anyway.

Here are a couple hot tips I’ve employed that add to my news consumption experience, as limited as it may be. These measures help me to be aware of the world around me without allowing the news to consume my life.

  1. I don’t engage (or even follow) news social accounts – The only official news channel I follow on Twitter (as far as I know) is @ap_oddities because it shares headline gems like “Police in Sweden say a wanted man was found asleep in a bed in a furniture store.” I find that I prefer to get the news from individuals that I either know personally or have followed for a long time and with who I’ve built some level of trust. Most official news accounts have a slant of some kind, and the news is simply more interesting when it’s presented by “real people” anyway. I get a better feel for the real human impact when stories are shared by people instead of “outlets”.
  2. I do follow Beautiful NewsBeautiful News is a new website that I love so much. It acknowledges that so much of the news today sucks, and it shares one amazing beautiful news fact each day. Did you know that U.S. Cancer Survival Rates are Rising? Well I just learned about it from @beautiful_news! It’s a young website but I love everything they’ve done so far. It’s great that they’re making a concerted effort to share nice things, and the visuals are so well done. I’d go as far as to say they’re beautiful.
  3. I spend an hour browsing AllSides once per weekAllSides presents all the biggest news stories with a brief synopsis and then links to more in-depth related articles from the Left, Right, and Center. By reading the news this way I don’t end up in too much of an echo chamber when it comes to the type of information that I’m consuming. And to be clear, I don’t subscribe to the site in any way. I simply visit the website once a week when I have some downtime.
  4. I read my local newspaper – I read the Daily Herald because I like to know about the new FroYo place that’s coming to town. It’s also fun to read stories about the obscure county employee who got caught stealing petty cash. You know, the hard-hitting journalism. Jokes aside the local news is important to me because it feels like a place where I could effect some type of change in this vast world, so I like to stay up on what’s happening close to me.

Could you dial back your news consumption?

Hey, I never want this blog to be overly prescriptive because I’m an actual mess who is still working out so many things, but that won’t stop me from posing the question. How would your life look differently if you consumed less news or consumed it differently? Have you changed your news habits in the past? What’s worked (or is working) for you? What do you struggle with when it comes to the news? Hit up the comments!

By Ryan

I wanna be a writer, so I'm writing. In this space I muse about being a dad, tech stuff, the joy of cooking, and hot takes about bad movies.

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