I would like to get stuff done and not turn into Chicken Little.
February 23, 2016 4:54 PM   Subscribe

I find that much of the news (especially politics, given the month and year it is) gets me all worked up and makes it difficult for me to get stuff done. I fully understand that news is presented the way it is by design - to grab eyeballs, but I still find the lasting anger/anxiety it creates in me to take away from my sanity and productivity. How can I hold onto my sanity and productivity?

Likewise, I don't want to isolate myself. I simply want to get out of manipulative traps in the media - despite becoming angry/anxious, I find myself watching/reading when I least want to. How do I go about this?

Another thing that triggers my anger/anxiety in the news is global warming presented in a doom-and-gloom format. I fully understand global warming's dangers and the need to for leaders to address it, but I hate feeling trapped by the "sky-is-falling" helpless Chicken-Little way it is presented.

But freakin' POLITICS are the worst!
posted by Seeking Direction to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You really don't need to read or watch the news. If something big happens, you will hear about it. Just stop consuming it.
posted by desjardins at 5:14 PM on February 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

This is actually the essay I was trying to find (PDF, 11 pages). It's a very in-depth explanation about why you should avoid the news.
posted by desjardins at 5:16 PM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

Some people can handle alcohol, some can’t. Sounds like you can’t handle CNN. I don’t see much option other than cold turkey. Tough breaks but there it is.

If it’s any comfort, your ability to change the outrages that you find triggering are probably pretty small. Your own blood pressure is the first priortiy. Kick back and imagine you’re in a Jane Austen novel. Day to day, the Napoleonic Wars are not your biggest concern. Nor, realistically, should they be.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:17 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're not clear on what type of news media (or combination thereof) you consume, although you mention "reading/watching". Just to be clear: Television? Radio? Print, or online versions of print media like the NYT or Economist? Twitter/social media/bloggers?

During the last two US Presidential elections, I had insane anxiety from all of my media consumption, much of which was television. I also grew up in a TV-news household and when I visit my family, it's always on in the background.

I completely cut out all TV news media and have never looked back.

So, number 1: If televised media (CNN, etc) is even 10% of your regular news source, you need to no-contact that shit like a terrible ex. With a few rare exceptions, televised media is the epitome of sky-is-falling garbage. It's because of the sound + visuals + everythingisbreakingnews tickertape. If action films are really just F/X porn, then so is televised news.

Number 2: Consider going on a "no news diet" (all news- not just TV, all news) for a week. YMMV depending on what you do for a living and how many of your coworkers may bring up the news, any other people you're in regular daily contact with (is this what you mostly talk about with friends?), or your need to access TV/internet for work. But that's what all of those wonderful time-wasting site blocker services (StayFocusd, LeechBlock, etc) are for - preventing you from accessing websites that distract you. Try them out. Use them. On your computer and your phone. And, if you can't help but click around to a cable/network TV channel, either disable your cable box for a week and stick to DVDs, or forgo the TV altogether.

Reflect on how you feel after a weeklong no news diet. Better? More productive? Happy? Strangely content with life despite not knowing who Trump insulted this morning or who's 1% ahead of who in the polls five seconds ago? Suddenly aware that none of it matters? Again, YMMV, but you don't know til you try it out.

My father mocks me for not watching TV news, and claims that I'm letting televised media "control me" if I am bothered by the way it's presented. Uh. Nope. There are just better, calmer, more respectable sources of news - and then there's the fact that reading and keeping up with the news isn't necessary at all. I have a cup of tea with my New Yorker magazine in-hand every once in a while, and I'd say it keeps me more informed and knowledgeable than most people I know who are constantly getting their news from noisy blips and tweets alone.
posted by nightrecordings at 5:20 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Read a weekly news source like The Economist or The Week. They always put things in much better perspective. You'll start to see how real time news is just shrill and reactionary.
posted by miyabo at 5:24 PM on February 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: TV, online "news" sites, and social media (in that order) are the worst offenders. With social media, I at least feel like I have more of a right to be skeptical.
posted by Seeking Direction at 5:33 PM on February 23, 2016

I agree with avoiding TV news altogether. I haven't watched it in thirty years. As far as online sources, severely curtail what you expose yourself to. Choose one or two news sources and look at them just once a day (if you can afford a subscription to a print news source instead, that's even better). In the early days of the internet, Dave Chappell had a great sketch about what it would be like if the internet were a physical place. He walked through a mall while people constantly shouted at him, trying to get his attention. Being exposed to that isn't good for anybody. If you don't have a high level job in government, you don't need to know most of what is going on. We tend to think that consuming news is somehow good for us, but the news at it exists now is like someone yelling at you to buy junk food. Ignore it as much as possible.
posted by FencingGal at 5:49 PM on February 23, 2016

Yesterday's news is today's fish wrap. So there's that.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:11 PM on February 23, 2016

The big problem is that "news", like ads, like sugar, is embedded all around us. Read Mefi? Lots of NewsFilter here. Listen to public radio? Even if you just want to listen to arts, science or comedy, those hourly or more frequent news breaks will have you diving for the dial. I decided to go on a news diet-to-fast recently and it's HARD but I've found ways that are working so far:

- I deleted the Twitter app from my phone and logged out on my desktop.
- I've stopped listening to the CBC most of the day (or night) unless it's a specific show I want to hear. I play selected podcasts, SomaFM or WFMU during work and while I sleep.
- I already got rid of cable years ago, but even OTA has pitfalls. Again, choosing to watch a specific show is fine, channel surfing isn't.
- I do my best to surf the web consciously. It's still hard.
posted by maudlin at 6:37 PM on February 23, 2016

Just quit watching TV (at least the news). There's no good news to be seen there, and it doesn't sound like it's doing you any good. Have you thought about cutting the cord? I haven't had cable TV in, like, 15 years, and I've never felt like I'm missing anything. The few shows I'm interested in are easy (and more convenient) to watch online.

Likewise: if you're going to consume news, try not to do it via social media. The toxic conversations that happen online ("never read the comments") get my blood pressure up faster than anything. If you currently follow news sources via Facebook, etc., unfollow them. Consider installing Ghostery to block comments on all sites (well, many of them).

You mention "news" sites, which implies that you don't think they're doing a very good job of presenting the news, and are really just shamelessly baiting people in to look at ads. (Which is absolutely true in most cases.) So, find some real news sites, and subscribe to them via Feedly. I like The Atlantic, NPR, Quartz, Medium, The Economist, FiveThirtyEight, The Intercept, Vice News, the Guardian, and the Washington Post, to name a few. None of them are perfect, but they are generally a cut above the CNNs and MSNBCs of the world. They ultimately just want you to look at ads too, but at least they have some damn integrity about it.

Lastly: if it's still too much after taking these steps, it's absolutely okay to just disconnect for a while. You can always come back when you're ready. It's not like any of us can do much about the horrible shit that goes on—it's nice to be informed, but not at the expense of your mental health. For example, if you already know who you're going to vote for, and election news is making you crazy, it's perfectly reasonable to stop following election news.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:44 PM on February 23, 2016

On non-preview: miyabo said what I was trying to say. There is definitely good, measured, thoughtful journalism out there. Emphasis on the "journal" part—not blogs (even the professional ones), certainly not the web editions of TV news outlets.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:00 PM on February 23, 2016

Response by poster: Great suggestions! I personally "cut the cord" last year, but I still go places where I end up watching and getting absorbed in the cable news (other peoples' houses, for instance).
posted by Seeking Direction at 7:24 PM on February 23, 2016

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