News Diet: The Importance of Unplugging

We live in such an amazing time where a wealth of information is available to us at the push of a button (or opening of an app). I can remember growing up in the 90s before the internet got popular; where we had the option of the newspaper to get yesterday's news, or to wait until the evening news hour to get the current day's events. Now, in 2020, we can't avoid the headlines. This constant connectivity is useful in many ways, but there comes a point when worldly events become overwhelming. Here are some subtle ways it affects us, as well as benefits to taking "me time" away from the news.

Information Overload

Do we really need to know about a celebrity's favourite snack, a businessman's marital affairs or how a group of conspiracy theorists claim birds aren't real? How does this help us in our daily life at all? These kind of articles only serve as fillers to tire you out or draw your attention away from the more serious issues. If you see headlines that make you roll your eyes, don't waste your time scrolling through it.

Outrage Articles These kind of articles are written in a such a way to make you feel frustrated as you read it. An example of this are advice articles that discuss the outrageous behaviour of a narcissistic family member at a family event, or minor injustices in a shopping centre with a one-sided point of view blown out of proportion. They give you unresolved anger. You may believe that once you close the article out, your interaction with it is finished, but the damage has already been done - maybe your mood changed halfway through reading it, and you find yourself having road rage later in the day for absolutely no reason. I'm really bad for reading the Reddit forum "Am I the Asshole", and find myself anxious over these stories that might not even be true.

Morbid Reportings

While it is important to have awareness about the atrocities committed all over the world, it is not mentally healthy or realistic to go deep into a topic if you're not mentally prepared to deal with what you might find. If you are taking a break from heavy articles but still want to remain informed, try to stick to brief articles that do not contain graphic photos. Social Media platforms are a great place to acquire knowledge of a variety of topics from a research point of view, but sometimes it can be hit-or-miss with content warnings.

Clickbait / Fast Reporting Sometimes Breaking News isn't as factual as we'd hope. Lately it seems newspapers try to be the first to release information to compete with citizen journalists/commentators. As a result, there are often frequent edits to the article throughout the day, and even sometimes apologies for inaccuracies. There is also a technique in which reporters cram as many attention-grabbing keywords into their headlines which does not necessarily appear in the article. This can cause you to come away from the article with more questions than answers.

When you need a distraction from current events, what can you do? 1. Go for a nature walk

2. Meet with a friend for coffee

3. Paint or do other crafts

4. Sit outside with a book

5. Go shopping

The aim of taking a break from headlines is not to bury your head under the sand in willful ignorance, but to allow yourself to move away from overstimulation and back into a calm state. Going deep into a topic you're not mentally prepared to be informed on can cause anxiety and a generally negative outlook on the world around you. By weeding out irrelevant 'news' and damaging content, you'll be putting yourself in a better position to continue (or start) advocating for topics or people that need it the most.

Have you ever gone on a news diet? What was the result?

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