Media Off, Nature On

Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. – Gertrude Stein


No stranger to the siren, healing call of a media blackout, I’ve used this technique countless times to regain my senses. While we practice social distancing (shouldn’t we be calling that “physical distancing” since we’re socially engaging so much online?), perhaps the time’s come for a little media detaching, too.

One’s motivation for shutting off the usual channels is easy to find. I cannot recall a moment in my history when the noise and levels of information and misinformation, of facts and blatantly false truths, of a federal government so intent and addicted to lying to us and following self interests over people’s lives than standing up and, well, leading us out of this nightmare, has screamed “turn it off” as much as now.

Truth is, once unplugged from traditional and most viral forms of news, you’re not really isolated from what’s happening. I used to struggle with the dichotomy of wanting to isolate from external noise and remain informed. Either through email or online research or word of mouth, you’ll hear about what’s important to know, even if the TVs unplugged, the newspaper’s cancelled, you’ve walked away from Facebook and Twitter, and you’re avoiding the Internet’s ground zero for a tug-of-war between good and evil, truth and lies:  Google. Some people can separate the noise from the essence and find the kernels of truth, but I’m not one of those it seems. Or not one who’s willing to invest enough time to dig that deep and prefer to spend my time on other pursuits.

I remember the first time I enacted a media blackout during the 2004 election. After the debacle and theft of the 2000 Presidency, the noise just became too much to endure. I stayed informed during Obama’s run, but in 2016 the nightmare of the election and constant barrage of reasons this candidate was unfit on so many levels to run our country, and a media that seemed to act more like a game show with an agenda to make money than tell it like it was, a media blackout saved my sanity. Sadly, as a long-term NPR listener to that staple of true reporting, I blacked them out too since they also seemed to have gone over to the “news as entertainment” agenda.

The antidote (for me at least) to reverse the impact of media noise where verbal diarrhea and fantasy masquerading as facts abound, is turning to nature. Long walks in nature help tether you to sanity if you stay plugged in, but become restorative in reconnecting to your thoughts and ideas, suffocated and unheard by the flood of news and information from every direction.

No matter what time you get out of bed, go for a walk. The demons hate it when you get out of bed. Demons hate fresh air. – Ingmar Bergman

The one regret in unplugging from media (but can be easily caught up on later) are on the fascinating research and learnings from the science of Covid-19 and the eye-opening reports of how quickly the Earth is reversing human’s damage since global human impact is a fraction of what it was mere months ago. From the clear water in the Venice canals, to the countless sunken wrecks now visible below the surface of Lake Michigan, to how quiet the Earth’s become as surface seismographic sensors are now reporting tremor levels once only gained from sensors buried deep beneath the planet’s surface, it’s an amazing thing to witness. The science is showing our efforts to reduce humanity’s burden on the planet can make an enormous difference. Whether we’ll learn the lesson and civilization adjusts its actions, or we’ll go overboard in returning to (and possibly exceeding) our bad and wasteful ways, only time will tell.

In the meantime, I’ll continue my media blackout (admittedly sometimes more of a grayout) to keep my perspective, sanity, and ability to live each day without fear, while focusing on doing my work. I can, and should, dwell on only things I can control, and listening or watching things I have no control over is not how I want to live each day.