I talk a lot about taking a newsbreak in my Sunday columns, and I find that when I stick to avoiding the news, it makes a tremendous difference in both my mental and physical well being. When I went away last weekend, I didn’t check my phone except for texts from Allegra’s cat sitter, and the difference in how I felt was remarkable.
Being obsessed with the news is far more common than most people realize. A 2017 study by the American Psychology Association revealed that 95% of adults say they follow the news regularly. 56% say that doing so causes them stress, and 72% believe the media blows things out of proportion. I wouldn’t be surprised if these statistics are even worse now.
Our brains are wired to pay more attention to bad news. This negativity bias causes us to pay more attention to bad things and often makes them seem more important than they really are.
While I’m pretty disciplined about my weekend newsbreaks (no news from Friday evening through Monday morning,) I struggle with not repeatedly checking for news updates during the week, when I’m at the computer all day. I find it hard to balance the need to stay informed with the need to stay sane.
A recent article on Focus Me, a productivity app that allows you to block certain websites or apps, really resonated with me. While I’m not ready to admit that I need an app to help me cut back on my news consumption, I found the article extremely helpful. It dives into the reasons for our news obsession and offers perspective on how to start taking your attention back. Some of the highlights:
- Today’s news suffers from a negativity bias – bad news increases ratings.
- Anxiety from watching the news lingers after exposure.
- Curate and ration your news to reduce its negative impact.
- Try a periodic news fast.
- If something really important happens, you will hear about it.
What resonated the most with me is the following passage:
“While today’s news cycles are often more about “outrage porn” than actually keeping us well-informed and connected, most of the world still lives in relative harmony. After all, when’s the last time you thought the world was about to collapse when you were actually walking down a real-world street? Most people aren’t at each other’s throats, arguing, hurting each other, and threatening to go to war. Most of life is still pretty darn good.
When we divert ourselves from constantly checking in with what’s happening on our phones, we begin to discover the beauty of the real world around us again. This is the world that more directly affects our physical and mental well being.”
Click here to read the full article, Obsessed with the News? Here’s How to Take Your Attention Back.
And by the way, the face of the kitty in the photo at the top is a pretty accurate representation of what my face looks like when I check the news…