Taking Control of My News

Before I Begin

A friend of mine recently wrote a blog post about his vasectomy. While I normally wouldn’t call attention to such a post (because, yuck), he wrote that he hoped his experience might help other men/couples who are considering the procedure. The funny thing is that the post I wrote about my ACL surgery six years ago remains my most well-traveled post. We authors are always trying to find ways to promote our work through blogs and social media and such, but often it’s the unrelated happenings in our lives that get the most attention. Whether such posts sell books is another matter entirely but it’s always worthwhile to share one’s own experiences in the hopes they might help others.

land_on_the_moon_7_21_1969-repairRejecting the Social Media Rat Race

Recently, I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to my daily habits and how I access and consume information. My own soul-searching is directly tied to last week’s surprise election results–afterward, I found myself suffering mild panic attacks every time I logged into Facebook. And the truth is that I’d reached the point where I was looking at Facebook multiple times a day. My addiction was unhealthy before the election–after the election it became clear that I needed to walk away from it completely (which isn’t to say permanently, just that I need a total and extended break).

You can read some of my uncensored thoughts about that decision here.

I’ve been off Facebook for nearly a week and I’m feeling much better. I’ve returned to Twitter so I don’t feel so cut off from my friends. But the most positive change that’s occurred is that I’ve devoted all that time I used to devote to Facebook to reading newspapers and discovering other news sources. I’ve taken control of the way I get my news.

Informed by Headlines

Studies indicate that more than half of U.S. adults get their news from social media. Prior to the election, I was no exception. And worse, I wasn’t actually getting news from social media, I was mostly getting it from headlines alone. I rarely read in-depth news reports and when I did, I usually just skimmed them. I have a feeling I’m not the only one. Factor in the dizzying amount of click-bait, bad news reporting and fake news items, and you have a population of uninformed adults who just think they’re informed.

Not that I thought I was anything close to informed, but having that vague awareness of what was going on in the world helped ease my conscience. Often, my husband would mention some story in the news and I’d say, “oh yeah, I read a headline about that.” Unless the topic was of particular interest to me, I rarely knew anything beyond that.

This is my shame and I’m owning it.

But even if I was in the habit of reading every news story crossing my social media feeds, that news was still being filtered by trending topics, individuals posting links to stories they find pertinent (along with their often dubious commentary) and in the case of Facebook, that news being filtered through their algorithms designed with a variety of factors in mind.

Step Away From the Keyboard

The first thing I did when I fully recognized the problem (they call that “hitting rock bottom,” I think) was subscribe to the digital versions of The Washington Post and The New York Times. I’m still contemplating adding The Wall Street Journal (it’s kinda spendy). In recent months, I’d developed the habit of laying in bed with my coffee in the mornings, flanked by lazy dogs, scrolling through Facebook. I’d known for awhile it was a terrible habit as it got my day started out on the wrong foot so it was important to me to get my news away from the Internet. Since 99.9% of my non-Internet reading is done on my Kindle, I chose digital subscriptions. Now I lay in bed with my coffee, flanked by lazy dogs, reading the newspaper.

What a difference it’s made.

Controlling where, when and how I get my news, without interference from Facebook, social media and the Internet, has given me much needed peace of mind in this extremely turbulent time. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not normalizing DT or feeling optimistic about what lies ahead in the next four (please, let it just be four) years, but I’m no longer in the-sky-is-falling mode. And thankfully, my husband is the perfect person to consult with when I’m feeling less than confident about the current state of affairs. I’ll ask “How worried should I be about…” and he’ll talk me off the ledge. Everyone should have a Mick West to turn to in times of trouble.

I still get some of my news from the Internet but I don’t start my day with it and getting away from the endless distraction of the WWW helps me concentrate on what I’m reading. Overall, I’m calmer and more grounded.

Habits are Habitual

I’m notorious for making big, sweeping changes in my life that don’t stick. Ask the above-mentioned Mick West. Still, I’m hoping the positive results of these particular changes help me stick with them. You’ll no doubt hear about it if they don’t.

Holly West

3 Comments

  1. Great post. I’ve been struggling with similar issues. I subscribed to the NYT after the election. I still haven’t gotten back into my NPR habit though, which saddens me a little. Maybe with some more time.

  2. PS I ended up here after reading your ACL article. 🙂
    I had surgery a long time ago and it’s been bothering me lately. Wondering if I’m going to need surgery again.

    • Sorry you’re having issues. Maybe it’s time to visit your surgeon, just to make sure everything’s okay.

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