- March 27, 2015 in Columnists
Cleanse your soul by detoxing from TV news
A month in to my self-imposed detox from televised news, and I’m reporting back. The short version of TV news detox is: Yes.
Do it. Shut off the TV. It may seem impossible and even a bit frightening, but I stand as living testament that you can free yourself from the bilge that’s pumped into your mind via the TV screen. There are other, better ways to stay informed about what’s going on in the world. Yes, the internet, of course, but even better: an iPad.
A smartphone will do, but an iPad is much easier for anyone with fingers fatter than Q-tips and who doesn’t like to squint to see print sized for a hamster. If you don’t have an iPad, suck it up sister, and get one, or a reasonable facsimile, and once you do, download the AP (Associated Press) app. It’s free. You get AP’s top stories on the home page, as well as subcategories, such as “technology” or “politics.” You can even remove the categories you don’t care about. My little AP app world is completely sports-free, which is how I spell “joy!!!”
Another cool feature: You can add AP affiliate newspapers, including local ones, which gives a nice daily glimpse into nearby communities.
In addition to downloading the AP app, if you’re not using Twitter, you need to start. It’s not all just “what I ate for breakfast” anymore. By “following” a selection of well-chosen news agencies, you get a stream of stories as well as breaking news. Load up your Twitter feed with the Washington Post, the New York Times, the BBC, Reuters and the Associated Press (yes, there are even more AP stories on Twitter) or whatever newspaper you enjoy, and you can click right over to the full stories from their tweets.
There’s a key point, however, in transitioning from televised news to online news: Pick sources that are generated either by respected news distributors like AP or Reuters, or actual newspapers, like the Post or the Times. If you wade out elsewhere on the internet for your news, you may get sucked into a cesspool of nonsense. Take Reddit, for example, which the cool kids tell me is one of their go-to news sources, so I checked it out. Two words on Reddit: “hell” and “no.”
First off, the page layout is mish-mashy and juvenile, and the content appears to have been splattered there like poo flung by a bunch of chimpanzees with ADD. I’m actually looking at Reddit right now on a split screen as I type. The top story is from the BBC, on the relationship between fitness and lung cancer in men. OK. Cool beans.
Two stories below it is one entitled, “Everyone in my family has sucked on my mom’s breasts.” And, it has 276 comments.
And this, children, is why we don’t go to Reddit if we want actual news. This is why we turn instead to our trusty AP app: No stories about people sucking on mom’s breasts, or anyone else’s for that matter.
That said, a “Who’s Sucking On Me Now” story would be preferable to the televised news content these days. I’m not the only one who has left the room. Many people tell me they’re also repulsed by televised news and are becoming chronically depressed and anxious. But, several also said that beyond print newspapers (which are still the gold standard of reliable news — yes, renew your subscription), they’re turning to Yahoo. Well, Yahoo isn’t really a news source. It’s a bulletin board pinned full of social flotsam and jetsam.
I click over to Yahoo now, and what do I find? Sure, the Alps plane crash. But also “Lady Gaga Forgets to Wear Her Pants During Shopping Spree in New Orleans” and “Brue Jenner Breaks Down Because Kris Replaced Him in Living Will.”
Ha. You think I made those up? Those are real headlines. Even I’m not that good.
While televised news fills your mind with terror, anxiety and fear, the internet stuffs your head with garbage — mental junk food that’s tasty, but doesn’t sustain life or, in this case, intellect. You need a way to stay “nourished” without the poison and empty calories. That was exactly my quest one month ago.
Initially, I was concerned I’d fall behind on the news. I’m a news junkie. I just can’t get enough. Ironically, I’m getting more news now because I don’t have to endure all the stories I don’t care about (Stockton may get a new sports arena… yawn) to get the news that actually matters to me. Furthermore, I can read complete, thorough stories written by actual journalists, rather than the three-sentence “stories” babbled by TV talking heads reading a teleprompter.
So. I’m getting more news, not less, by staying away from the TV. What am I not getting? The anxiety and sadness triggered by an endless stream of cruelty, disease, murder and disaster, all strung together by helplessness. I can’t resurrect the toddler drowned by his mother in Omaha. I can’t re-head the innocent people murdered by ISIS. I can’t un-burn that poor Fresno family’s home. I can’t unflood the village in Singapore. There’s no purpose in feeling so sad for humanity and anxious for my safety… other than to keep me tuning in so I’ll know what I should be feeling depressed or worried about today.
What’s it like after a month without infusing my brain with this stress? My anxiety level has gone way down, and my information level has gone way up. I actually feel — and sleep! — better now. Sometimes, I almost feel calm. Yes – ME! And I didn’t do a thing except turn off the TV.