Here in the United States, the election happened, the inauguration happened, and then it sort of at times feels like all hell broke loose. So much is happening so quickly to a point where even if you agree with what’s going on, it’s hard to even keep up. Legislation is happening by surprise overnight, people are getting fired at a moment’s notice, and that’s just the political news. What about everything else that’s going on in the world?! How do we keep up with all of it?!
I’m gonna tell you something you might not want to hear: you don’t.
Every year when September 11 rolls around it seems like younger people have the same question about “What was life like before?” and it seems like every year the first answer is always the same. We didn’t have the 24-Hour news cycle with people beating down your door with news of all hours of the night. There was none of this “let’s keep talking just to talk even though there’s been no progress.” You got your news in the morning and twice at night on the television, in the newspaper, and if you had regular internet access you might go check out some stuff online if you couldn’t catch the news at those other times.
For those of us with even the slightest shred of anxiety, the 24-hour news cycle is hell. There’s this constant pressure to keep up with everything, you don’t want to be out of the loop. With Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites it’s like people are talking about things all the time. Don’t even bother going to Tumblr, where there are no timestamps on important-looking news posts and last year’s minor news can easily be made to look like today’s big scandal.
It’s a lot, and it’s a lot to deal with no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.
Which is why I wanted to talk about how best to handle it; if not for you, then as a reminder for me.
Step 1: Unplug Sometimes, For The Love Of God
Look. I get it. None of us wants to admit how addicted we are to our screens and phones and iProducts and smartwatches and smart refrigerators for pete’s sake. But we are addicted, and that’s half of why we keep shoveling news down our throat even though we keep making status updates that include phrases like “UGH” and “I CAN’T EVEN” on a regular basis.
So put down the phone, turn off the computer, and do something, anything, that does not involve technology.
This doesn’t have to be a total let’s-pretend-we’re-settlers-on-the-Oregon-Trail moment, you could even choose to do this for just 20 minutes a day. Read a book, watch a movie (yeah, okay, that’s technology, but a movie can’t yell in your ear about all the activism you’re not doing…well, depending on the movie, but just work with me here)—the point is, take yourself away from the thing that you’re constantly want to check. It will always be there when you come back, and you’ll really enjoy the break. The other day I just sat and read a book and didn’t look at my phone for a half hour and it was so relaxing and gave me a much clearer head about coming back to the constant news barrage afterward.
Step 2: Get Your News From Slower Sources
There’s something weird that happens in our brains when we keep reading all this stuff constantly. You feel overwhelmed, you consume a ton at a time, you feel this instant urge to share and then the comments start flooding in and you have to discuss the thing and it all happens fast enough to make your head spin. I generally try to avoid reading news on Facebook (though I’ll skim the headlines) and instead get my news primarily from one source, which is the definitive source: The Associated Press.
Other than the fact that you can get all your news either on their website or from their app, the coolest thing about getting news from AP is that they don’t include bias. In my experience, having a bunch of people telling you how you’re supposed to feel about the news makes it more overwhelming. Through AP’s source articles you can read just the facts and decide for yourself whether this is good or bad and process it at a speed your brain can handle. Also, there will be less wondering “is this real?” because yes, yes it is.
Another great thing to do will sound like someone’s grandma’s advice, but read a damn printed newspaper. Sure, not all newspapers were created equal, but all you can do with newspapers is read them. You can’t hastily click share, or rant about it, you just have to read it and go “cool, okay.” You can have some time to digest it, which will make it feel less overwhelming.
Step 3: Fight The Stream With Non-News
Part of the reason this is all so overwhelming right now is because everyone has suddenly figured out how easy it is to hit the “share” button and seems to be using it exclusively for news articles. But—and this might seem like a wild idea—what if we shared things OTHER than news to break it up? Would that really be so weird? We did it once before when the internet learned about cat videos, we can do it again!
Take some time to share things that make you smile and help relieve that anxiety of hearing nothing but negative news all of the time. Your favorite funny or cute YouTube videos, a song or album that you love, a blog post that made you happy or made you think. Celebrate yourself by posting a selfie of how great you look, or a photo of your pet.
These things might seem inconsequential and yes, I get it, there ARE bigger things to worry about, but you are only going to drain yourself by worrying 24/7. Really. You need a break, and so does everyone else so that you can focus that energy on really making change and addressing the news with a level head. By all means don’t go spam everyone you know with cat gifs, but… you know. It’s okay to share irrelevant fun things. It doesn’t mean you care less, it just means you value self care and keeping a healthy balance.
Obviously, these steps are the things that help me. It might be different for you. But one thing is certain no matter what, you don’t need to let the news overwhelm you. It’s perfectly okay to tune out, recharge, and to focus on what’s important.
If you have any other advice to survive the news onslaught, please feel free to share it in the comments. Otherwise, I’m going to go make good on that whole fighting-the-stream thing and maybe unplug for awhile. You gotta do what you gotta do.