After several months of diligently keeping up with U.S. politics, I quit cold turkey.
This was a big moment for me. I had been spending every day logging into Twitter, checking my Facebook feed, and perusing YouTube to see what the media wanted me to know about.
It was an addiction, of sorts. The more I learned about U.S. politics, the more I felt like I had a coherent opinion. And the more I felt like I had a coherent opinion, the more my ego wanted me to maintain and improve that image of myself. Which, of course, sped up the cycle of trying to learn more about politics so I could maintain my image of being informed.
This led to me becoming more and more paranoid that our society was heading toward a cliff. The incessant news of shootings, social unrest, and political bickering started to form a narrative in my head that “things were getting worse.”
Then, a friend invited me over for dinner.
He and I have traditionally differed in our political views, but I’ve always found him reassuring to talk to. His normalcy was always a reminder that my media diet was being fed by caricatures of the most extreme positions from the other side. So, I was looking forward to talking to him so I could have my paranoia reset. He would show me that the “other side” was not as crazy as I was worried about.
But, something was different this time.
I was telling him about all the extremist positions I had seen from his side of the aisle. Usually, he would react to this by calmly explaining how he also thought that was crazy and then he would share his much more measured opinion about the issue. But, he wasn’t defending his side anymore. Instead, he was smiling. He looked at me with a big grin, and said, “I think all of this is so funny.”
I was confused. “What do you mean?” I replied back with a head tilt.
He told me that, in the last month, he had completely cut politics out of his life. He was no longer following the news cycle, at all. He then expressed how this decision gave him a fresh perspective. Instead of being caught up in whatever issue was at the top of his news feed, he was able to have a clear mind to invest in the things that really matter to him.
He seemed alarmingly…at peace. I hadn’t seen someone this calm in a while. It looked like a compelling way to live.
A week later, I decided to take drastic action. I installed Chrome extensions that blocked the news feed and recommendations on all social media sites. I also uninstalled every social app from my phone. Lastly, and this was the hardest part, I had a few frank conversations with some of my close friends with whome I would regularly discuss politics. I told them that I was no longer following the news as closely and wouldn’t be able to talk with them about any of it.
I’m pleased to report that this transition was immediately gratifying. Just a few days of not knowing every single thing that was going on was enough for me to realize how unproductive my old habit was. Every second I spent getting worked up about something in the news was a second I could have spent on the things I truly care about.
I can now see with clarity that this is a much better way to live (for me, at least). I love the work we do at DonorSee to bring poverty alleviation to the poorest half of the world. That, and spending undistracted time with my wife, are my two favorite things. They both bring me joy and happiness and I don’t want to lose a single second of that.
Whenever big events do happen, either in the news or in my friend’s lives, I still find out about them. But it’s from someone telling me about the news (usually the same day), instead of a sensationalist headline that spikes my anxiety levels.
I’m so done with the news cycle. I invite you to join me and, instead, find the things in your life that “spark joy” in the infamous words of Mrs. Kondo. There’s a beautiful world out there, and there are meaningful ways to engage with it. Enjoy yourself. 🙂
P.S. Please support my work today.