Taking a Break From the News (by Marsha)

Pat and I recently made a major shift in our daily routine. For the first time in our life together, we have stopped watching the news on TV every night. This is a huge change, especially for Pat, whose TV news-watching habits date back to childhood. 

We made the change partly from exhaustion — the events of the past year had ground us down — and partly to lower the outrage level. We both found anger frequently boiling over, spilling onto any available target, even each other. So we hit the “Stop” button, at least for now.

It was weird at first. I felt oddly un-anchored without the familiar faces and voices of reporters and commentators greeting me each evening. We are filling the space in a variety of ways: we listen to music, I knit, Pat exercises, and we watch thoughtfully selected TV series. And we make a point to enjoy each other’s company. It’s working. We feel better. 

We are still informed citizens. We subscribe to newspapers online. We selectively watch a few TV news segments, mostly on weekends. But we’re working to find the balance between informed and over-saturated, between attending to important problems in the world and attending to the many joys and pleasures that are ever-present.

Washington Post advice columnist, Carolyn Hax, wrote a remarkable piece in response to a reader who was upset about seeming unfairness in vaccine distribution. An excerpt from Hax’s reply:

When something dominates the national news, it’s common to feel highly engaged but also mostly, if not entirely, helpless. We feel it, but we can’t fix it. So our very normal, healthy impulses to do something start to wander around, looking for a place to go.

And like any entity with a lot of energy and nothing to do, these impulses start to cause trouble around the neighborhood. Namely, we can feel very tempted to judge, correct, fixate on, fume at and try to micromanage what we see, or rename it Karen. Our friends, relatives, neighbors, colleagues, that guy behind us in the checkout line.

Sometimes bystanders must get involved, of course, as the last line of defense against bullies, abusers, even terrorists. But most of the time, and especially when the impact of the person we’re correcting is drop-in-the-bucket negligible — or when the stakes are highly abstract — we risk doing more harm by butting in than by a strategic choice to look the other way.

Our affectionate ties to others, after all, are the most potent, underrated weapon we have against just about every threat we face as people. (Emphasis mine.) So when you catch your sense of righteousness loitering outside the minimart, looking for trouble, please call it home and find it something constructive to do.

“Our affectionate ties to others, after all, are the most potent, underrated weapon we have against just about every threat we face as a people.” She has a point there. At the risk of oversimplification, perhaps we do well to take the kind and gentle route and let the outrage settle a bit.

Just a thought…


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