How was 2018 for you? Do you look back and remember a year full of bad news, bad news about Brexit, Trump and Russia?
In which case, here’s something to make you feel better:
“[The news] doesn’t relate to the ordinary person’s existence, any more than a crime thriller… But we are competing for people’s time and their attention, and the reality is that bad news does sell.”Tony Gallagher, Daily Mail Editor (2015) [LINK]
As grown-ups, we’re made to feel like it is part of our duty as citizens to ‘stay on top of the news’. But who among us truly believes that what we’re sold as ‘the news’ is actually giving us the tools we need to fulfil our duties?
Academic Jodie Jackson has found that regular news reporting is disempowering, making us feel that our social problems are ‘inevitable and endless, rather than solvable and temporary’.
Cathrine Gyldensted, a masters candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, found that people’s positive affect (something like happiness) fell after reading ‘classical’ news reporting.
If you’re not convinced, then by all means do an audit of your favourite news sources. Does their agenda empower you, inspire you, or make you want to go out and change the world?
Does ‘the news’ give you the tools you need as a citizen who hopes to live a more fulfilled existence in a flourishing world?
If your answer is yes, then fine: keep them.
But if you feel ready to chuck in your usual news sources, I’ve got a few suggestions for replacements:
- Books and libraries. Set your own long-form agenda. Learn something new and change the future. [Why Everyone Should Watch Less News And Read More Books Instead by Ryan Holiday]
- Friends – yes, friends! Whether it’s their new baby, a job vacancy at their company, or an invite to a barbecue next weekend, it’s rare that our friends don’t offer news of real, immediate value to our lives.
- Strangers. Or, as they are sometimes known: fellow citizens. We could all do with hanging out together more often.
- Community politics. Politics isn’t something that happens out in make-believe world of ‘the news’. It something that happens right now, on the street. Go and say hi. (Okay, so I’m still buzzing that the council recently fixed a faulty street light outside my house, but I do think this is true.)
- Go for a long walk outside in nature. What’s the news with the starlings, with the streams, or with the sunset?
- An afternoon nap. Sometimes the best thing you can do is nap.
- The Future Crunch newsletter. Try their roundup of 2018 for size – tagline: The world didn’t fall apart this year. You were just getting your news from the wrong places.
- Positive News magazine and/or blog. If you are looking for more positive sources of ‘news’, then this list by Jodie Jackson will help. But honestly: do you need them?
As someone who hasn’t read the news for two years, I promise that you really don’t have to stay on top of everything. Trust that the important stuff will come to you because it’s important.
In the meantime, read a book, phone a friend, talk to a stranger, go for a walk. You’re free now. Relax.
And I wish you a happy news year!