Is the news giving us depression?
I've started 2017 off by drastically culling my news media intake.
I know you've heard of people doing it before.
I actually run a business that profits from spreading the news though.
But I'm questioning whether I actually need to keep doing that to remain profitable and useful.
I have found since moving to Mandurah that I'm a lot more peaceful, but at the same time a lot less connected to the news here. I simply haven't had time to produce news for Everything Mandurah, so I haven't bothered to become aware of any of it. But while I've been living in Mandurah and ignoring all local current events and news, I've found life to be rather peaceful. It feels like I'm living in a holiday home.
I'm wondering if I can keep this up.
So I've deleted the news from my iPhone, unfollowed a lot of accounts on Facebook, Twitter etc, unsubscribed from a heap of emails, and hidden certain apps in my phone. I've also killed virtually all push notifications on my iPhone.
I subscribe to a few blogs via RSS / Feedly, check Twitter occasionally... though I've culled who I follow to about 34 people, and I listen to podcasts and read the odd book.
I haven't listened to the radio or watched regular TV for four years, so that's not an issue.
Instead of scrolling through Facebook (which I have always despised to be honest) I just text the few people that I'm actually close to and keep in touch that way.
I've stopped wearing the Apple Watch and I've put my iPad away. I either work at my desk on my iMac, or I'm not working. My work can't follow me as easily now.
Sometimes I feel a little ... twitchy... as my addiction for scrolling through a feed or dealing with an alert starts to make my skin crawl. But it passes eventually. And I've found business to actually improve financially since doing less work. Weird.
I'm able to completely empty my email inbox about twice a day... previously a task done about once a month. And not knowing about the latest murders or whatever hasn't affected by sense of connectedness with my loved ones... if anything it's improved it.
I'm on top of my book keeping, and I'm producing more work I'm actually proud of.
It's hard breaking the addiction of alerts and notifications. Especially when I've literally profited from it for so long. But I'm more curious about what I'm able to achieve if I am the one who decides what to do with my time and attention... not the outside world, and not technology.
And my world view is vastly improved the less I consume news media. I still look at crime stats occasionally, so I feel I am more accurately aware of what is happening than those who build their world view through the media. But viewing the world around me through my eyes rather than through a screen or through a journalist's mind, has left me with the impression that the world is much nicer than we all realised.
People still feel the need to tell me when bad things happen. I received a call from a relative recently when some idiot drove through a mall in Melbourne killing some people. He shared the news with me in a very sombre tone. I realised when he told me the sad news that I had been having a wonderfully happy day, while everyone on social media that day was upset by the day's events.
Now, not to discount the tragedy... but it happened 2,715km's from me. It's a three day drive if you go hard. I think about four people died.
Why am I supposed to be upset by this news?
Because they're my fellow humans? Well, I can tell you a lot worse than that happened to our fellow humans that day, but the media you consume didn't mention it.
Because they're fellow Australians?
Because the media didn't have a bigger story that day so that's what made headlines?
Because I need to be aware of it so I can vote for the right people who will stop this tragedy from happening again? What if I told you violent crime is at an all time low despite this tragedy.
I went and read a few paragraphs of the story once I had been informed of it. And I concluded that there is literally nothing I could have done to prevent it, nothing I can do to prevent it from happening again, and the event does not affect me or anyone I know in any way. The only loss I suffered was the loss of my time from having to be made aware of the event.
Should events like this be covered up? Absolutely not.
But in a world of spiralling depression, suicide rates that are too high, and an "always on" connection to way too many people through our smartphones, something needs to change. We need to take responsibility for our own mental health.
And my state of mind and my productivity is greatly improved the less connected/distracted I am.