Why You Shouldn't Feel Pressured To Watch The News
This week, I made the bold decision to log off Facebook.
I ended my daily ritual of plopping down on the couch to fill my brain with hours upon hours of repetitive and horrifying stories from MSNBC, Fox, CNN and a bunch of other news sources.
Within a few hours, I found my mood had improved by about 50 percent.
I left the house to go out to eat instead of ordering pizza to my couch, and I was able to make eye contact with my boyfriend during our entire meal.
Then, something shocking happened: I started to remember why I actually like my boyfriend, and I started to listen to him with the same genuine interest that I had when we had first started dating.
Had he gotten more interesting? Or, was it that he was actually being listened to for the first time in weeks?
After a really pleasant dinner together, we walked home holding hands, and he expressed how happy he was that I was putting social media away for the week.
So, he'd noticed my addiction to feeling bad, too.
I wondered how many of these evenings I'd missed because I was scrolling through Facebook and Twitter.
I wondered why, when everything in my life was going so well, I kept making the choice to fill my mind with news that made me feel like shit.
Right now, we all feel a pressure to stay informed and to remain alert and aware, as if a world-ending bomb is about to drop on us any minute.
But if that's true, I don't want to spend my last minute alive scrolling my friends' shitty Facebook posts.
I want to spend it holding hands, making eye contact and laughing with the guy I love.
As the week has pressed on, I've still been listening to NPR to stay informed.
Something about the way NPR delivers horrifying information in an emotionless, monotone tenor reminds me not to panic. ("Today, President Trump has lifted sanctions in Russia. And now, here's Pink Floyd's 'Comfortably Numb.'")
This way, I can remain informed about what's happening in the world without getting jacked up on the media's (and Donald Trump's) manufactured outrage.
In turn, I've also started to understand some of the appeal to all this outrage: It's a huge rush.
We respond to news stories similarly to the way we respond to horror films. Our adrenaline surges, and we get hooked on the excitement of fear, in spite of that fact that it's toxic.
Watching the news, especially right now, is like doing meth.
It doesn't feel good, but it gets me high.
And as long as I'm getting my fix, I'm too paralyzed to fight or show up for anything else.
I mean, how many of us sat home last week during the protest of the Muslim ban while watching videos on Instagram of our friends who were protesting the Muslim ban?
I know I did, and I'm not proud of it.
But after this week, I feel like I actually have enough energy to show up to the next protest. And tbh, I don't think I'll post even one video of it.
It's enough to just be there.
You don't have to fill your head with fear. Watching the news does not add to your productivity.
The news is designed to make you so afraid that you can't look away. It's how networks get ratings.
And how can you show up for yourself or your fellow citizens when you're paralyzed by fear?
I'm not suggesting people stop watching altogether. I'd be lying if I said I didn't sneak a peak at my girl crush Rachel Maddow this week.
But right now, I'm aiming for progress, not perfection.