Obsessive news consumption has negative consequences
I have been a news junkie almost all my life. I’ve read a daily newspaper since grammar school, progressing from comics to sports to the front page.
These days I listen to radio news, watch television news and read multiple newspapers. I try to keep up on articles friends send me via e-mail. I have excused all this by saying it’s part of my work, necessary to get different perspectives.
I read a real paper first thing in the morning, and a digital one before bed most nights. In between is Twitter and news feeds and Lester Holt.
So you will understand that it was very unusual for me to take a news fast. I recently went for more than 48 hours without hearing the news, seeing the news, reading the news.
I felt great.
For 48 hours, my frustrations decreased and my mood improved. It was revelatory. The first day I’d twitch a bit every time my phone vibrated with a news alert, but I managed not to read them. The second day went even more smoothly. The question now is: Will I do it again?
More and more people say they are taking steps to prevent “chronic news funk,” a First-World pathology whose symptoms consist of anger, depression and despair generated by too high an exposure to current events.
This is not a new disease. Both a pastor and a family counselor told me several years ago that spouses (usually wives) were complaining that their husbands were in perpetually angry moods, and it was affecting their relationships. The reason: Obama-era news funk. After one election, the priest even preached on the dangers of all this anger.
Now we are seeing Trump-era news funk
Citizens have a duty to be informed, but that is a far cry from obsessing over the latest horrors or the latest stupidities.
As I try to decide how far to take my news-free experiment, a Jewish friend suggested recovering the Sabbath. Catholics can make Sunday a real day of rest. Pope Francis would agree. In the new documentary “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word,” the pope says we need a day set aside to worship God and focus on those we love. “We are not machines,” he tells us.
For other ideas, go to itstimetologoff.com, which has lots of suggestions for freeing ourselves from technology, including a “five days on, two days off” approach.
Finally, ban screens from the bedroom. This used to apply only to televisions, but now it includes phones, tablets and laptops. Who knows, maybe even newspapers too.
It’s time to start dreaming again.
Erlandson is director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service.