….but we are all fabulous.
On my favourites bar on my computer, alongside links to my bank account, credit cards etc. I have a link to this article: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/apr/12/news-is-bad-rolf-dobelli. Once in a while it catches my eye and I open it and remember that when I am feeling unproductive, sluggish or gloomy, at least part of the solution may be simply to stop reading the news.
Thomas Sword Good, No News, 1833
This was not so much of an issue for me when news was something I read once a week in the weekend papers, or even caught up with via the headlines on the Nine O’Clock News. The news was still unremittingly negative, but at least it was delivered at a manageable and more digestible pace. Now we have 24/7 access to news on our phones, computers, televisions, and even when we aren’t reading a news channel as such, it is still ever-present in trending Twitter stories, Facebook updates and so on. ‘Breaking news’ is no longer a high alert notification that would occasionally scroll across the bottom of your TV screen when you were watching a programme, to tell you of an unexpected event such as the death of the Queen Mother. Instead it is used many times a day to indicate a news update or new story –irrespective of the magnitude of the story. For me at least, this sometimes has the obvious desired effect of hooking me in and I will check back through the day even for trivial updates. This isn’t helpful – for a start, the news is usually negative in its content and repeatedly re-exposing ourselves to negative information is hardly a mood-boosting activity. I am not suggesting for a minute that we should be uninformed, responsible journalism has a valuable role to play in keeping public figures accountable and exposing human rights failures, but we don’t need to be informed about microscopic updates.
I work at a computer all day and often work from home. Whilst this is generally effective in boosting productivity relative to being in the office, it has the unfortunate side effect of blurring work and home-life boundaries, so that I spend too long at the computer – some of the time working, some of the time doing personal work such as banking, online shopping etc. Whilst flitting between jobs, I will also read the news several times a day – and for a little while last year, I am ashamed to admit, I would sometimes read the MailOnline – often to find out more about one of the breaking news stories that more responsible papers would not speculate about. Once I took myself in hand and stopped exposing myself to the appalling content, including the notorious sidebar of shame, I could feel my mood lifting and incidentally my body image improving, although for a few days there was also the insistent tug to just have a quick read, in much the same way as any recovering addict might experience, so insidious and unhealthy are its effects. While more reputable publications do not offend in the same way, even a week-long holiday with no or reduced news has the effect of feeling a burden lifting from my shoulders.
For me this extends not only to national and international news, but also the daily news of acquaintances and friends on Facebook. Back in February, the incidental updates about what people were having for dinner became too much. While Facebook news is generally positive or neutral rather than negative, there is something utterly draining about how I interact with it – much like reading the news I used to check in with Facebook a few times a day. What did I think I’d be missing?! I knew it had to stop when I found myself getting angry, when I started having unpleasant dreams about ex-boyfriends I wouldn’t ordinarily give a second thought to and when I would recount what X had written as if this was some kind of real interaction with them. Within days of starting a Facebook holiday, I could feel the poison leaving my body.
Where does all this leave me? In many ways the technological advances around us are a wonderful thing. I love being able to find out about almost any topic I care to know about without having to leave my computer, I love being able to find out about what is happening all over the world, and, yes, now I am back on Facebook and checking in once a week or so, I love knowing what my friends are up to. But as with most other aspects of life, moderation is key and while technology continues to develop apace, I need to remember to stay in control of it rather than letting it control me.