30 day challenges: no news

A man reading a newspaper, looking confused. Source: Thomas Leuthard, https://visualhunt.com/re/8fb5ee

It's been a while since I've done a 30 day challenge and this one is probably way overdue. I'm going to give up news for a month.

Why? Well, because it's depressing, that's why. Although that's an oversimplification.

I was challenged recently over the possible negativity of my worldview. I've been increasingly concerned of late about inequality, waste and the general state of the environment, but not to the point that I'm actually doing anything significant about those things. I was simply wallowing in the certainty that humanity is generally terrible.

This is in part, I'm sure, driven by my limited but ongoing addiction to the news. In truth, I mainly keep an eye on it to see if a certain president is going to be impeached at some point, but as no one in that country's government seems to have a spine, that seems increasingly unlikely. Meanwhile I'm being bombarded with bad news that I feel helpless to do anything about, and it's getting me down.

That's not to say that being concerned about world issues is a bad thing, which is why I'm only trying this for a month. I'm hoping this will help clear out my brain a little, give me some perspective and allow me to focus more on things closer to me.

The rules

Obviously I can't avoid news entirely - I'd have to almost completely stop communicating with other people. But I can stop reading news websites, and watching news videos, and so forth. I may have to avoid websites like YouTube a bit more, as it's very easy to pick up headlines in the periphery.

The challenge will be to keep going if something really dramatic happens during the month, although perhaps that will help with the whole perspective thing. Who knows? Let's see.

Day 1

Tricky start as my Dad emailed me a news story (I hadn't told him). It occurs to me that I may need to mention this to family and friends. Otherwise I think I'm off to a good start - I've had to suppress a few reflexes to jump onto a news site during quiet moments, but so far so good.

Day 4

A conversation point I was making about a news story started veering dangerously towards a spittle-fueled rant, further reinforcing why this whole thing is a good idea. Otherwise things are going well. It's impossible to isolate myself from all news, but I'm making the effort.

Day 8

I'm still managing to avoid the news but with a vague sense of trepidation. I was worried about this until I realised I always have this. My motivation for keeping up has been driven by the fear of missing out on some small but important story in our increasingly overwhelming news deluge. Unfortunately, this realisation has done little to quell this anxiety. Oh well.

Day 9

I just watched the end of an old episode of 'Have I Got News For You'. That's allowed, right?

Day 14

Something relatively dramatic happened near where I work today. I found out about it from work colleagues. It was really hard not to look at the news to find out more. Eventually, the situation was resolved, and no one I know was involved.

Day 16

Dreamt I was reading a news website last night.

Day 27

Accidentally overheard some news on the radio. Apparently there's been another shooting in the US, although there's been so many I'm not sure it counts as news anymore.

Finished

Well, I did it. And I feel strangely happy. Ignorance is bliss, perhaps. It was difficult at times to avoid the news (translation: I didn't manage it entirely) but I've proved that it's possible. I've also proved that the world didn't end because I stopped keeping up with what's happening. And I didn't once feel left out of a conversation because I wasn't familiar with the news story at hand.

I also don't feel the urge anymore. It's been nearly three days since I finished this challenge, and I've not looked yet. So will this be a permanent change, or will I eventually go back to my old habits?

They say that to stop a bad habit you should start a good one to replace it. From now on, if I'm going to read the news, I'm going to try to read some good news, such as the Guardian's Upside, a collection of positive news from around the world.

And maybe, if I find something particularly upsetting, I might try and do something about it.

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