The modern-day nature of news as instantaneous, fast-paced, and in truth as a stream of headlines soon to be updated, can carry a number of benefits. It enables people to feel plugged into the world around them and increases awareness of current affairs, not only at home but abroad too. Alongside the constant updates that 21st century news thrives on, however, can come a number of drawbacks. For me, these materialised considerably in the last lockdown.
With lockdown persisting, I began to find the continuous notifications and news updates rather overwhelming. This isn’t surprising considering how many news and media outlets we now have access to at all times. I found myself constantly bombarded without really knowing anything new, or not completely at least. I felt I was eavesdropping into a national conversation, waiting for time to give me the full picture. Finding this to be rather tiresome, I decided to quit the news. I deleted news apps off my phone, ignored the TV news, and even boycotted news sites on Instagram and other social media platforms. I guess you could say that throughout this last lockdown, I have completely epitomised the ‘bury your head in the sand’ motif. However, it has served me well.
My news boycott lasted around three months, with an eventual tuning back in to hear the first of the Government’s ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ announcements in February. While this extreme cut-off from current events may not be everybody’s cup of tea – for example, I was astounded to see how much the coronavirus figures had risen over the Christmas period, having not engaged in any announcements since October – this way of life has certainly proved its benefits.
Over my ‘newsless’ period, I felt calmer and much more at ease, plodding through what we can all agree has been the hardest of the lockdowns. The lack of coronavirus updates and announcements enabled me to focus more on myself and getting through this difficult period, without the constant reminders of what was going on externally. Ultimately, I was able to prioritise the things that helped to keep my stress levels down and remain as grounded as possible.
However, being newsless has had even more benefits than improving my mental health alone. This lifestyle shift in the long-run has actually enabled me to remain more up-to-date with current affairs. Sounds paradoxical right? By quitting the news media, I began to only engage with ‘slow news’. Prior to giving up the news, I had already subscribed to a number of newsletters. I had also been a subscriber to Tortoise Media since it began in 2019, a media company centred on ‘slow news’ and the ‘slow but wise’ characterisation of the tortoise… think tortoise and the hare. Sure, I put these platforms on pause too over my boycott period, but since re-engaging, these are now my only news sources. Apart from tuning in on Sky or BBC News on TV when major announcements or events occur, my on-going involvement with the news consists of giving myself about an hour, twice a week, to check in with current stories. In turn, I can access more complete stories rather than an array of instantaneous and incomplete headlines.
I truly believe that the modern-day obsession with immediate updates has led to an unhealthy and unsatisfying relationship with the news and current affairs. Ask yourself, how many times have you merely looked at a headline or skipped over an article because it felt too long to gratify your short-term attention? I used to do the same. But now my relationship with the news is no longer a chaotic mass of notifications and surface-level information. It is thought-provoking and developed, and in turn no longer feels like a disruption in my pocket, but encourages me to think more critically. So while a complete, short-term news break may not appeal to you, I wholly encourage you to reflect on your relationship with the news. Ask yourself whether your current engagement with the news, and its constant demands on your attention, are still serving you? If not, maybe consider taking a break. I promise you, you really don’t miss out on that much. If you’re anything like me, you will likely leave (and return) feeling refreshed and more aware of how you can tip the scales in your favour, finding a relationship with the news and media that caters for you at the forefront.
This article was written on the 21st of March 2021.