These days there are two constants in my daily information intake: 1) reading the news, and 2) browsing social media. However, the news is often terrible and social media is always terrible. This means my brain is constantly at war with itself on how to stay informed about what’s going on without feeding into my half-serious fantasies of retreating into a remote cave where the news can’t reach me and social media doesn’t exist.
My first instinct is to stop reading the news to help preserve my sanity. That’s what a lot of alleged experts say to do: “Just stop reading the news! You’ll be so much happier without all that negativity in your life!” But my brain has other ideas. Whenever I ponder this option, my brain says, “Hold up, now. Don’t you wanna be informed? Do you wanna be clueless about what’s going on out there, even if it’s awful?” Of course I don’t wanna live in ignorance, brain! But there’s just so much horrible stuff being said and done by horrible poeple, and more is always brewing on the horizon — is it healthy to keep reminding yourself about that, day after day?
Feeling pushback, my brain tries to compromise. “Maybe you can just read the headlines once a day, then stop. Or even do a news fast by avoiding it completely for a couple of weeks. Then you’ll feel better!” Sounds like the rationalizations of an addict, right? I’ve actually done the news fast thing before, and it does provide some relief. But the moment I start catching up on current events again, I immediately start sinking back into that quagmire of dread that I was neck-deep in before.