OPINION – Now I know what it feels like to be a fish out of water. Last week I read an article that claims reading news is bad for you and that giving it up will make you happier. It had some points worth considering.
The author, Rolf Dobelli, summed up his argument by saying, “News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether.”
Maybe it was the fact that the article came at the tail end of a week dominated by bad news, but it definitely got me thinking.
I spend virtually every day immersed in news and information as part of my livelihood. Thanks to the ongoing digital revolution, we have ready access to what’s happening virtually everywhere we go. From our laptops to our tablets to our smartphones, news has never been easier to obtain.
But what if that easy accessibility to news is actually interfering with our happiness?
I decided to put Dobelli’s idea to the test. This past weekend, I went on a media fast for two days straight. This meant putting my laptop away and limiting my cell phone use to a few calls and texts only. I listened to no radio. I watched no television, not even online programs. I learned some important lessons from this exercise.
First of all, I realized just how addicted I’ve become to social media such as Facebook. It took great effort to resist the temptation to log on for just a few moments to see what people were saying. Favorite websites like LewRockwell.com and the Future of Freedom Foundation were likewise off limits. I even avoided St. George News, though the lack of local news was giving me a bad case of the shakes.
For two solid days, my knowledge of the world around me was strictly limited to my interaction with others and my own activities. I read books. I attended the Dixie Power Kite Festival with my family and the Pay It Forward for Dixie event later that evening. Sunday was filled with church meetings and visiting family and friends.
Here’s what my weekend without news taught me:
There is an abundance of happiness in our community. This is not to suggest that nothing bad ever happens. But when we choose to actively focus on the positive, it is very easy to find. The only sad news I received all weekend was in person from a local teacher who had just lost a young student to a tragic and unexpected health issue.
Challenges and tragedy are still very much a part of life, but rather than hyper-focusing and analyzing them to death, we can take them in stride. When bad things actually do happen in our community, we can personally rally around those who need our help. This willingness to bear one anothers burdens is part of the character of Utah’s Dixie.
But what should we think of misfortunes that happen elsewhere?
I was reminded of Charley Reese’s advice that when some great calamity takes place, watch it once and then turn off the TV and go on with your life. The world continues on with its business whether we are up to date on the latest breaking stories or not.
Even though I was taking a break from the news, people were still discussing events everywhere I went. One thing I noticed immediately was how much more respectful they were in their comments to one another. One of the sad side effects of the digital age is the institutional rudeness that online anonymity encourages. The comments section of most news sites bristle with venomous contempt.
We treat each other like human beings when we’re face to face.
A two-day media fast was a nice reminder that I can get by without what writer Claire Wolfe refers to as our “daily dread supplement.” I noticed that I was more relaxed and less concerned about those things over which I have no control.
In the past, I’ve found that after a week or more of media fasting, the world starts to look a lot more normal. Sometimes we just need that reminder.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2013, all rights reserved.