Breaking News Addiction

“When words are both true and kind, they can change the world.” (Buddha)

Are you experiencing media overload?

Recently, I had a thought-provoking conversation with a friend about this subject. She admitted that she compulsively reads the news every morning and is concerned about the effect it’s having on her. She’s noticed that she’s become more pessimistic about people and more discouraged about the world. Sometimes she feels like she’s shutting off from other people and becoming isolated. All this at a time when she recognizes a need for just the opposite.

She’s not alone. I could relate to much of what she said, and I’m guessing many of you can, too.

The news is constantly with us, and most of it is disturbing. It’s a challenge to balance our desire to stay informed with our need for at least occasional peace of mind.

There are a number of elements that play into this dynamic:

  • What we’re reading
  • What we’re doing about it
  • How we’re finding balance

What We’re Reading

What sites are you deriving your news from? Do they present the news objectively without telling you how you should feel? Or do they deliberately incite your outrage—either by bolstering your own views with name-calling and exaggerated or misleading rhetoric, or by denigrating your views with name-calling and exaggerated or misleading rhetoric? We can get just as riled by manipulative news that supports our world view as by manipulative news that refutes it. And a steady diet of media outrage will take its toll.

It’s understandable that we sometimes seek sources that will support our own positions or biases. It helps us feel less alone. But it also widens the divide between us and those with differing worldviews. I have an acquaintance who only watches FOX News. She—without irony—calls it “fair and balanced.” All other news is “fake news.” Conversations with her are like talking to a Stepford Wife. The divide between us is as deep as the Grand Canyon, and I find it difficult to imagine that ever changing.

An occasional media appraisal is always a good idea. Are we reading objective sources as well as biased ones? Are we distinguishing between news coverage and opinion? There’s a place for both. Are we letting others tell us how we should feel? Are we using our critical thinking skills?

Are we—perhaps—reading or listening too damn much? Setting boundaries is an important skill in so many areas of our lives. There’s a lot to be said for setting boundaries on our news consumption.

One way of setting boundaries is declaring news fast. While a total disconnect may work for a few (blessed) days, it’s neither realistic nor desirable for the long term. We don’t want to be completely clueless, and, unless one is planning to be forever cloistered in a sound-proof and people-proof cave, the news will penetrate.

A more successful strategy may be to limit what we read or how much, or even take brief periods of digital detox. If you take a day off from the news here and there, there’s little danger of missing out on important information, given our 24-hour news cycle. The more relevant question may be how many times do you need to hear the same story?

The boundaries we set are going to be unique to each of us and relate to our own need-to-know quotient, tolerance for repetitive information, and, frankly, our level of addiction to the news.

What We’re Doing About It

If we’re reading or listening to the news and then just letting it simmer and percolate, we’re cooking up a heaping stew of helpless. The more news we ingest without taking some action, the more powerless and hopeless we will feel.

So, it helps to frequently ask, “What can I do about this?” “How can I be part of the solution?”

For some, that may mean attending a city council meeting, or maybe running for city council. It may mean writing a letter to your local paper, or to your member of Congress. It may mean speaking up in a setting where you would previously have stayed silent and seethed. It may mean writing a check to a cause you support, looking for an alternative to plastic bags for your produce, or offering assistance without being asked. It could just mean journaling your thoughts or talking with a trusted friend. Any or all of these actions counter our feelings of helplessness.

Next time your stomach is tied in knots over the news, pause and ask, “What am I going to do about this?”

How We’re Finding Balance

One solution to media overload might be more media—in this case, media that seeks to inspire or uplift rather than to depress or incite. My friend and I tried to identify publications or sites that serve this need and, sadly, we couldn’t name many. One weekly bright spot we both enjoy is Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper; it’s a place that definitely focuses on the positive. Shriver often reflects on the high-profile news stories, but does so from a solution-oriented point-of-view. Her other stories and articles are consistently uplifting and positive.

Knowing there must be more, I googled “the most uplifting websites” and found these articles listed:

The Top 48 Most Motivational and Inspirational Websites

15 Uplifting Sites Focused on Positive Stories and Ideas for Good

Top 50 Positive Websites to Benefit Your Well-being

They offer a wealth of positivity. Depending on your own preferences, some of the suggestions may be too sappy, too religious, or too scholarly. They may be aimed at very different audiences. But there are likely to be at least a few that offer something you need: comfort, inspiration, laughter, a sense of community. Bookmark those and plan to revisit; or perhaps they’ll have a subscribe button. This blogging community also offers lots of uplifting and entertaining options.

Where do you go when looking to counteract all the bad news that pummels you? If you have a favorite site or publication that uplifts you, please share it. I know at least two people who are seeking to add some positivity to their daily news consumption. A little humor would not be amiss here, either.

Looking forward to some good news!

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ (Fred Rogers)

22 thoughts on “Breaking News Addiction

  1. Thanks Donna, excellent article. I watch the news, sometimes, drifting between our local TV stations (South Africa) CNN BBC and Sky sometimes Aljazeera. It’s pretty much of the same old same old, bleak and disturbing. I get early morning local news on my cell and I check the headlines –
    The Good News Guy is local and the stories are so uplifting -there is so much good in people.
    Thank you again –

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I discuss this with friends all the time and I have cut way back. I was addicted to CNN, watched it obsessively until I realized it was making me really tense. Now the only time I put it on is if there’s a debate or a major news event has happened. I watch Canadian news at night and I read the NY Times. That is pretty much it. I go out of my way to find positive news and, like you, I also enjoy Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper. A few months ago I saw a promotion for CNN’s Good Stuff — a free weekly (Saturday) online newsletter that talks about good things ordinary people are doing. A couple of years ago I was blogging about US politics in the Canadian edition of Huff Post. I stopped for the same reason I stopped watching CNN — it made me tense. I know we have to be aware of what’s going on, we have to be informed, that we can’t hide our heads in the sand. But it’s equally important to be aware of the good in the world, to be encouraged and inspired by it.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks, Fransi. I’ll check out CNN’s Good Stuff. Hadn’t heard of that one before. I also find the Canadian News (CBC) to be refreshing–seems to be far less sensationalism than most American media. It really is a balancing act to stay informed and not feel tense. I like the fact that we’re seeing advertisers withdrawing support from some of the most egregious media sites or pundits.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t watched the news in years. It places fear in people. My friends know this about me and text if there’s a hurricane coming. There is a Good News Network, but even that is full of distractions while trying to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with all that you’ve said here. I live in a politically conservative part of the country but am not like my neighbors. I deal with the Faux News crowd whenever I go outside my own front door. From what I can tell what they want is some attention and a sense of belonging somewhere; they’re more worried about being alone than being correct/accurate/logical. Thus when they start down the primrose path of hate I thank them for updating me, a person who never watches the TV news [my boundaries]. I’m telling the truth, I don’t watch news [I read the news], but oddly enough this approach seems to placate these people while I feel like I’ve extended kindness toward them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your approach (and avoidance of TV news) seems quite effective, Ally. And I think you’re exactly right about people seeking a sense of belonging. Maybe our collective task is to help people find belonging outside of political, ethnic, and social polarity. Easier said than done….

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks so much for this post, Donna! You’ve provided us with an abundance of wonderful sites, including the Good News Network: goodnewsnetwork.org One thing I’ve noticed is that my compulsion to read news in the morning, is to some extent driven to read something non-fiction in the morning. And so the other sites you’ve steered us to – like Zen Habits (zenhabits.net) and Tiny Buddha (tinybuddha.com) – really give us something worthwhile to contemplate – instead of the same ole’ bad news! (And if you sign up for their newsletters, this is automatically delivered in your mailbox.) My bottom line: I am not merely fed up with bad news; by avoiding it I choose not to fear or believe the worst in people.

    Big hugs to us all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Roxanne, for setting the wheels in motion. It’s been eye-opening to learn about some new positive sites, and be reminded that we always have a choice of what to connect with and how to react.

      Like

  6. Donna, This is good as there are forces that knowingly want us to be oblivious to the truth in order to fulfill the desires of many seeking control. At the same time as they accuse they are practicing the very same activity that they seem to abhor. The mere fact that they claim that everyone feels the way they do create a group of people that are weak and non-thinking to believe that a person is not worthy of existence. Looking at what they seem to profess when analyzed will not make any sense to a rational individual. Those are the ones that have brought about the basis of their stand. The Media today is not news, only entertainment. At that, a source of comedic relief. Great insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I just had this very conversation with a good friend who is experiencing a dark night of the soul. They are also addicted to the news. They get notifications from CNN, Apple News, the Times, local news, sports news, etc! Their phone chimes about 20 times an hour with an “important news update.” I could never handle that and would be severely depressed to! I think we must be informed and educated, but we must also have some control over our interactions. For me, I also need to have an action plan as you said. Maybe donating, maybe petitions, maybe calls. Whatever I can do without going over the edge. I hadn’t heard of Shriver’s Sunday Paper, so thank you! I’m signing up now! A few of my hopeful resources: On Being Project, Orion magazine, Emergence magazine, The Sun magazine, Parabola journal. They are found in various forms—print, digital, newsletter, blog, podcast. Also, Oprah tends to have uplifting podcasts. These and many other resources are helping me through these tumultuous times. Thanks for a wonderful, thoughtful post, Donna.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks, Cheryl, for your recommended resources. I was familiar with some, but others are new to me. I’ll check them out. With regard to Maria Shriver’s “Sunday Paper,” you probably won’t see one ’til the first Sunday in September. She takes August off, but after that, it will be waiting for you first thing every Sunday morning. I hope your friend’s difficulties get better. I agree that so many alerts, flashes, and continual breaking news would be overwhelming and depressing. Self-care may be more essential than constant information.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.