No, I haven’t escaped to the woods…yet (not a bad idea, though). What I’m talking about is going back to an intentional personal media blackout. I’ve watched my behavior, moods, and perspective over the last few months as I’ve contemplated doing this again. And I believe it will help on so many fronts that are not percolating along as I think they should. In addition to the obvious gains in limiting negativism (and let’s face it, bad news sells), I expect, as I experienced before, a huge boost in available time to focus on my three criticals: support my family and friends, write like I’m a writer, and finish my house remodeling. All that in addition to my day job (and surviving the energy drain from that) and other interests I enjoy pursuing. There’s no room on my list of being me for an addicted news junkie attached to the electronic teat of the news media in all its inglorious capitalistic and narcissistic forms.
As of today, I’ve deleted the bookmarks in my Dailies folder (a folder on Safari that I read every morning of my favorite sites) related to news: New York Times Skimmer, CNN.com, The Daily Beast. I canceled my sub to the Toledo Blade. I even canceled my sub to The Economist (a great magazine, but a huge time drainer). I don’t watch TV news (don’t even have cable or over-the-air reception), so that’s a non-issue unless Netflix’s streaming service starts carrying NewsReels. And while there is no way in today’s connected world that I can truly unplug from “news,” I can at least disconnect from my voluntary sources and thus significantly lower my exposure to the world’s ills. When I did this a few years ago, it didn’t make me an ignorant hermit. I heard more than enough (too much actually) about major news via the workplace, Internet communications, and word of mouth. Truth is one can’t escape the deluge unless you’re off in the mountains with nary a soul around and miles from the nearest ‘net connection. That would be a bit too radical (but oh the hours I could devote to writing…).
And what about social media? And my beloved NPR? Hard calls. Twitter’s a huge black hole, and thus far not seeing much value there so will likely unplug from it. Facebook, however, is even more addictive than mainstream news. And NPR’s been part of my morning routine since…well, since 2007 as noted in the link above! Not clear on Facebook and NPR exposure quite yet, but do plan on watching them closely. NPR’s fairly predictable on news coverage re: time of day, so a little self control to avoid those zones should do the trick.
So what made me do this now? Watching myself become way too interested in the details of the Arizona shootings is what pushed me over the edge. It’s not that I don’t care about what happened, or feel for those affected, but more that I can no longer afford the emotional capital required to stay on the cutting edge of all the world’s problems, considering all the other things that whine for my attention. Those events that truly important where I can make a difference will find their way to me without me bartering valuable time away.
Will this media blackout du jour stick? I certainly hope so, but realize the proof will be in the productivity, not to mention the anticipated peace of mind. Don’t wait up for the proverbial “film at 11” to find out, because I’ve pulled the plug and hopefully for the final time.