Tell me if you can relate to this. Last weekend, I grabbed my cell phone and clicked on Google to search for something. The Google app opened up with headlines to half a dozen news articles. I took the bait and read a couple of the stories. After wasting 15 minutes reading news, I couldn’t remember what I wanted to search for on Google in the first place!
The worst part is that for the next several hours, I was deeply upset by one of the stories I’d read. Perhaps you remember the headline: Steve Bannon Takes Anti-Establishment Message Overseas: ‘Let Them Call You Racists.’
How sad that these negative thoughts about a hateful story filled my mind on an otherwise beautiful day.
I finally came to my senses, and then I was disappointed in myself for wasting precious hours fretting about a person over whose agenda I have absolutely no control.
Companies like Google and Facebook get paid whenever we take the click bait, and I fell right into the trap.
News, News Everywhere
These days I read a lot more news than I used to. The majority of the stories are negative.
So I wonder: Is digesting all of this news healthy?
How often do I click on an awful headline out of morbid curiosity?
What am I allowing to fill my thoughts and mind?
What value do I get by reading gossipy stories about celebrities?
Is digesting negative stories a good use of my time?
How much do I really need to know?
Experimenting with a News Detox
What would happen, I wondered, if I completely blocked the news for 24 hours? Would I miss something really, really important?
I decided to try my experiment last Monday, on a work day when I knew I would be at my computer for many hours. Here’s what I tried:
DuckDuckGo for mobile search – The interface is simple and news-free, just like Google used to be. Even better, DuckDuckGo doesn’t track its users.
No social media – I prescheduled my clients’ posts so I could completely avoid Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during my experiment.
No local, national, or wire news sites. I just didn’t go there.
No weather apps – Even The Weather Channel app has headlines and weather-related news videos. I had no idea what the weather would be like on Monday, but it turned out to be a very pleasant, sunny day.
No TV or radio news – This wasn’t difficult, as I tend not to watch or listen unless something “big” is happening.
I managed to stay news-free except for the one time I clicked on Google mobile out of habit and momentarily saw a few headlines.
So how was my news-free day? It was excellent! I never did learn what happened on Monday, but despite missing all of the news I survived just fine.
Thinking Better Thoughts
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Phil. 4:8
In a world saturated with so much bad news, how can we possibly focus on things that are noble and pure? Since I’m so easily tempted to click on a link, I want to make a more concerted effort to fill my mind with better things.
Here’s what I tried during my experiment:
Nature – I watched the sunrise, and listened to the birds. I took a walk, and saw the first crocus and tiny buds on the trees and other signs of spring. Monday evening, I stepped outside when I let the dogs out and gazed at the wonder of the stars.
Music – Classical music soothes my soul, and yet I hardly ever listen to it. So on Monday, I played Mozart throughout the day. Ahhhh…
Books – In the morning, I read an inspirational devotional. In the evening, I read a novel. I slept so well Monday night.
Free time – My son and I worked on a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle together after he came home from school. We had fun, and it was pure Zen relaxation.
People – I took a few minutes throughout the day to think about some of the people I admire. My mom. Madeleine L’Engle. Billy Graham. Patricia Raybon. Julia Child. Tim Tebow. Jane Goodall. Carol Burnett. The news is filled with stories of crime, deceit, hatred and gossip, but there are so many good, talented, caring people in the world who make a difference.
Art – In my office I have a painting of a peaceful brook created by my Pop, and a beautiful watercolor of nasturtiums that my Mom painted. I spent some time admiring both works of art, and appreciating my parents’ talent and heart.
I loved being news-free and losing all of that negative energy. Focusing on good things nourished my soul, in direct contrast to how I usually feel after digesting a bunch of news stories. My experiment taught me a lot, and now I’m working to find a balance between being informed and having a mind filled with right thoughts.
How About You?
Would you like to take a 24-hour (or longer) vacation from the news?
Do you have any strategies or suggestions to add to my list? I always love hearing your thoughts.
Grateful thanks to Ian Turnell for use of the beautiful photo above.