Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Didn't Read the News Today, Oh Boy!

I have a confession to make: I've quit the news--at least the international and national news. I have stopped actively looking for and reading news online, viewing the news on television, listening to the news on the radio. I have turned on, tuned in and dropped out.

No, that does not mean that I have no knowledge about what's going on right now. I know about the election in Iran, the Metroliner wreck in Washington, the Obama administration's health care initiative. The news is a difficult thing to escape. It pops up everywhere. And I have not quit the local news--at least, I have not quit the less strident, less lurid local news outlets. But I have quit reading blogs, quit receiving emailed news bulletins, quit surfing over to the major mainstream web sites.

What brought me to this point? Why did I unplug? Simple observation. I realized that on days when for one reason or another I hadn't consumed the news, I felt better. I slept better at night. I felt much calmer and more focused. I slowed down. I listened more attentively. I was less combative. So, I began experimenting, deliberately avoiding the news for a day or two, seeing how I felt, then immersing myself in the news again and observing my reaction. The length of time I went without news gradually lengthened, until finally, I simply stopped reading the news altogether.

I could speculate about why disconnecting from the news would have an effect on me. A lot of news stories are framed in a way that invites a strong emotional reaction but actually have little direct bearing on my day-to-day life. The most complex and nuanced issues are presented in a dumbed-down, polarizing manner that invites me to choose a side and fight. Equanimity and compassion are not the realm of the news media. But whatever the reason, not reading the news has had a positive effect.

So I invite you to try unplugging, too. Take a day off. The world will continue to spin without us. Governments and families and athletes and movie stars and armies and the police and terrorists and religions will all continue to function (or maybe dysfunction?) without our having to form an opinion about their every action. And by the end of the day, maybe you'll find that you feel better for having disconnected.