…about reducing news consumption. I understand all the arguments to the contrary: they say now is not the time to stop paying attention. Now is not the time to become complacent or (worse yet) hopeless. The people making those arguments make a lot of sense. The world does feel like a dystopian nightmare most of the time and I admire members of the resistance for staying informed and fighting back. But what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for everyone. And when I take a break from the news for a day or two – even for a week here and there – I feel much, much better.
“I recommend that you stop watching the news / Because the news contrives to frighten you / To make you feel small and alone / To make you feel that your mind isn’t your own.”
The Guardian (back in 2013) made this case for giving up the news as well. In addition to all the ways news consumption doesn’t help our understanding of the world, it negatively affects our health, much like a steady diet of junk food.
News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitisation.
For years, people have suggested that I go on a news fast but I said I couldn’t do it. Now, the current state of affairs nationally and globally is so dire, dark, and desperate that it’s time to try a new approach. My young daughter knows (on some level) when I’m fending off anxiety or despair after making the mistake of reading the day’s headlines. I want her to understand the world and be curious about what’s happening, but she’s still in diapers. I’m still trying to find the right balance between staying sane and staying informed. Chances are, I will go back to following the news and being politically involved again. But today, I’m a better mother, wife, daughter, and friend if I let all of it unfold without being under my vigilant watch.