About a month ago I decided to make some major changes to the way I consume news-related content. I unfollowed several news organizations on social media, deleted news apps from my phone, and stopped listening to news radio in the car. Most importantly, I stopped reading and responding to comments to news stories on social media.
I noticed a major shift in my overall mood, even within the first week. I was less annoyed and generally happier. I was able to focus more at work because I wasn’t distracted by breaking news alerts. I stopped checking my phone so much at home, which meant I had more time to focus on my family. I watched the 30-minute evening news after the kids were in bed and that was enough to feel informed.
I feel like the 24-hour news cycle causes people to experience a daily outrage. Every day there is a different story or event that you are supposed to be mad about. It’s hard to be angry every day and not become jaded or grumpy.
For three weeks I generally stayed away from the news, only watching the evening news. But last week I was overwhelmed with news about the shooting in Florida. I found myself checking news sites multiple times a day, reading comment sections on social media, and commenting on friends’ posts (positive and negative).
Getting caught up in an online debate about gun violence is not going to affect any policy change, so I realized it was time to recommit myself to the unplug challenge. I don’t want to stick my head in the sand when it comes to important issues like preventing gun violence, but I need to be honest with myself about whether or not the actions I’m taking are benefitting myself and making a positive difference in the world.
To help me monitor how often I check certain websites, I use a Chrome extension called Stay Focused. To use the extension, you enter websites you don’t want to waste time on, set a daily limit for yourself (I chose 5 minutes), and the extension will block the sites after you reach your time limit. I’ve been using this extension for several weeks and have found it very useful.
If you’ve found a way to stay informed without feeling overwhelmed by news and current events, I would love to hear about it in the comments.