Not all the news

I know that continually checking the news is not a great way to be.  But it has been a bit compulsive watching/listening/reading over the last couple of weeks hasn’t it?  I have been trying to limit it, but not hugely successfully I must admit.  My aim was to listen to the news just twice a day – first thing in the morning and then at 6pm, where the BBC Radio 4 news has less emphasis on commentary and only 30 minutes to get all the stories in.

Despite all of those good intentions, I have found myself checking a newspaper’s app during the day, including the rolling news feed; popping the news on the radio at lunch time; even watching the news on the TV (this is such a rare occurrence I always find it shocking).

It’s not been hugely helpful really.  Obviously, I need to know what is happening, but to be honest with myself, I can and will find out all the major changes in government advice fairly quickly.  I am chatting to a ton of people every day and someone will tell me about any major change in life.  I have set up alerts on my phone which are genuinely working to only send me the stuff I really need to know – well it’s slightly debatable whether I needed to know that Prince Charles has mild symptoms, but I do see that that was headline news at that moment.

Yesterday I had a bit of a breakthrough.  I listened in the morning, but only for about an hour.  And then nothing but the headlines as they got sent to my phone in the day. I did click through when hearing the PM and Health Sec are in isolation. I briefly checked the headlines at about 5.30pm to see if there was anything in the daily briefing, but that was it, I did not spend the early evening clicking through news websites and listening to the news.  And you know what? I felt much more relaxed in the evening.  I knew I would feel better but still good to prove it.

Today I had an afternoon nap (trying to offset the ridiculously early waking up I have been doing) and had the weird response on waking up of having to check the news.  I glanced at a paper’s main screen, no more.  It was a strange instinct on waking up though.

Now it is almost Saturday evening, not a time for news consumption, but for relaxing and finding entertainment instead.

I am very grateful to have access to news when and if I want it though as well as being able to limit it somewhat.  

All the worries

Strange times indeed.  I am acutely aware that the habit of writing these short pieces was helping me through previous odd times, which were nothing compared to this.  Come back Brexit!  Obviously that is a joke – a society divided is no fun either, and actually in ways was more worrying – for me anyway.  I have tried not to consume too much news over the past few years, an hour or so of radio news in the morning and that was pretty much it.  

I decided that I ought to be more in tune with news at the start of this year.  Mainly because I am keen to be a thoughtful part of current leadership elections.  So, one of the squares on my habit tracker was encouraging me to read the news.  

In the last couple of weeks of course, reading the news has becomes as compulsive as it has ever been in my life.  And frankly it is driving me nuts.  Most of the headlines are about what possible measures may be put in place, or what has been put in place in other places, or what someone thinks should be the official advice here.   It is not clear at all, it is frightening and confusing instead of reassuring and clear. 

I know this is unprecedented in my lifetime (gosh I write that and assume it is – I would not have forgotten a pandemic in my childhood would I?), so there are no comparisons.  This is not the same as wartime, natural disasters are awful, but again not the same. Political uncertainty makes us feel unsettled and worried, but the fears are very different. 

I know it must be hard for anyone to decide what to do, hence all the opinions that are flying around.  For now, I am trying to simplify and turn down the volume on the emotional reactions and listen to official guidance and less to everyone else who is now thinks themselves an expert epidemiologist.  And I have crossed out that habit tracker line to read more news.  Less news, more fresh air, more thinking about other people is the order of the day.  Until that guidance changes of course.

Stay healthy, look after each other.

Life’s not simple

I am taking my mind back into the ‘real’ world after an extended break from listening to news.  I was a bit of a BBC Radio4 addict, especially their news shows, but at some point earlier this year it all started to feel too much, I decided half an hour a day of news was enough, ironically not even focussing on it, it’s in the background when I write this.   I opted out of being informed and thinking about it all.

My opting out was from radio news; I don’t read papers any more, I tell myself I have no time. That’s blatantly not true, I spend plenty of time on Facebook and Instagram that could be spent reading a paper, but I am having a continued battle with the wisdom of how I spend my time.  I don’t watch TV news, so I have no idea of how it works, but I suspect it would be similar to the radio.

I discovered one of the reasons that I am struggling with news this week.  It was during a church meeting when we were discussing the issue of explaining to parishioners the conflict resolution work by the church in Colombia.   Several people said that this would be too complicated to explain, we cannot condense the work and the issues into a short announcement in the bulletin, nor a one minute talk at the end of mass.

The penny dropped.  We are all trying to condense the problems and the solutions into a soundbite, into a short sentence, a tweet, a Facebook post, an Instagram pic.  I know, this is not new news folks, people have been saying it for years.  But it is making me feel personally anxious for the first time ever.   I don’t know what the answers are any more, because I can’t get the information.  I don’t spend time focussing on reading about an issue, anything longer than a TED talk – and I cannot even admit to how many TED talks are on my ‘oh that would be interesting, I will watch that later’ list.  – is too much for me now.  My brain has been trained to hear soundbites and muse on them. There is rarely a black and white, all or nothing solution to anything.

To go back to the conflict resolution – that sort of work takes time, it takes listening, it takes learning about people and their views and hearing why they hold those views.  My understanding of an issue and my ability to do something about it, can only happen if people give me the gift of information and time to hear it.  It’s not about who is the best orator or who has the best slogan – that is propaganda.

I suspect reading papers or periodicals would help.  Any suggestions?

creative smartphone desk notebook
Photo by Markus Spiske on




Reading time

I heard an interesting podcast today, one of the Optimal Living Daily series.  They are interesting and make me think, sometimes they make me hit stop, but mostly they do not.  And they are short.  That is a good thing.

Anyway, this one was about reducing our access to the news and instead advocates reading books in order to learn about the world.  The theory being that the emotional roller coaster of the news (specifically on TV) is designed to make us feel vulnerable and therefore most likely to buy the products advertised around the news.  Which makes sense of the number of adverts for holidays in newspapers.

One of my ‘slower’ resolutions was the perennial, but no less urgent for it being repeated, ‘read more’.  I think that one of my issues with reading more is that in spending time reading, I cut myself off from the news.  I listen to audio books instead of the Today programme, I read a novel instead of the newspaper.  But this piece (it was originally a piece by a blogger named Mr Money Mustache ) has reframed that thinking a bit for me.

And it is true, literature offers you a different perspective.  Yes, I escape from reality, in that what I am reading about is not happening here and now, but all fiction is based on some sort of reality isn’t it?  Fiction puts me into a different pair of shoes and keeps me there for a while as the story lingers in my thoughts.  I experience something other than my life.

And how much of the news is reality?  How much is actually affecting me.  Believe me, I engage with current affairs – I campaign, I vote, I write to my MP, I discuss politics – I think I am a fairly active citizen.  But there’s a lot that I cannot change and on balance, not hearing the news more than once a day doesn’t seem to make me less able, instead, the space away from it energises me.  And gives me more time to try and make the world a better place, rather than just worrying about how awful it seems to be.