A few days ago I realized it was all getting to be too much. News that is. Actually, to be more specific, news commentary. News I can handle. I follow current political events with major newspapers (both local and national) as well as general business, human interest, education and housing, etc. Local newspapers enrage me the most because they hit so close to home, but I also follow them. I’m what you might call a newsophile.
What was getting too much for me was the endless commentary about national politics. And while I understand that people need to comment and should comment because we need to draw attention to what is going on in our country, I was drowning in a sea of negativity and sorrow because of it. In hindsight, this has been going on since 2016.
Empathy is a double edged sword. It’s good to have it, but it also can eat away at you if you don’t manage it.
The first sign this wasn’t normal was my reaction to the 2016 presidential election. I almost threw up. I sobbed all night long. I’m 48 years old and have never had a reaction like this to anything political. My youngest child woke up to the news and almost threw up, sobbing that we were now on the brink of World War III — an idea that she picked up from some of her classmates that clearly stayed with her. The kids stayed home from school. We were crushed. Again, not normal.
The next day I gave up CNN and haven’t watched it or any other cable news program since. And let me tell you that I never felt any better. Because while I love information, I can’t stand people telling me what I just read or saw as though I could do neither on my own, particularly when it’s “spun.” Spinning the news is a garbage practice. It’s reality distortion without the benefit of a shiny gadget. It doesn’t matter if it’s a take I agree or disagree with. Taking the talking heads and paid contributors out of the equation made the news feel cleaner again. Until it didn’t.
Facebook was the second to go. I didn’t need endless reports about “fake” news stories permeating social media. It was glaringly obvious each time I opened the app. I had grown up with parents telling me that “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Turns out that’s a perfect filter through which to read posts. The heavily reported data breach and Facebook’s response to it made me realize I no longer wanted to be their product. The two week “cooling off” period before my account could be permanently deleted cemented my decision. I’ve never looked back.
Instead, Twitter became my go to account and something that I regularly used to keep up with the news post-election. I followed the journalists I respected and admired, the people they followed, the people they followed, and so on. I discovered political scientists and researchers, which led to other writers, speakers, and experts on all matters that interested me. I discovered the account of Chuck Wendig and Darth — the two accounts that have kept me entertained the most (and that I will miss the most). It was wonderful. And highly addictive, even more so than Facebook. Because instead of keeping me connected to my immediate connections, it connected me to the world. I couldn’t get enough. Until I could.
It started gradually. Opening the app began to cause stomach aches. It became less about wanting to know what was happening in the world to an exercise of seeing just how much I could withstand. I lost hours a day scrolling and scrolling and refreshing, reading take after take about various news items. Like, comment, and repeat. For me, it turns out there is such a thing as too much information. Reading a story once or even the same story across different newspapers is one thing. Reading those stories and then the hundreds of takes on those stories that appear within minutes has gotten too much for now.
Twitter is now gone from my phone. I made my last post a few days ago. I’ve forgotten the account password and won’t reset it on my laptop. This story will post there by default, but I won’t be on to see it. I’ve decided to take the summer off, not from news, but from the constant rehashing of news. I’m grateful for the people that keep important stories front and center. They should be. That’s how change happens. But I had to recognize that the change they were causing in me wasn’t healthy. And the last thing I need right now is a pre-existing condition.
I’m still a newsophile, I’m just reverting to analog.