We’re constantly bombarded with news everywhere we look, with it no longer confined to traditional news outlets. It is plastered over our social media feeds and intrinsic to our everyday lives. No matter where in the world you are, whether it’s another minority group Trump and his government are trying to oppress, another populist group gaining traction, a plane crash, explosion, or the latest update on a little known pandemic…the list is endlessly depressing.
For many, the news is no longer just informing us about the world we live in, but it induces anxiety, sleepless nights, existential crises and depression amongst us. It begs the question then, why don’t we just…turn off? What are we really achieving by absorbing all of this information to just be angry and upset at every tragic thing that’s occurring right now? Even when it’s about our very own human rights that are being snatched away or that we’re still trying to obtain, like not being able to breathe in front of the police because of your skin colour, it can be frustrating, tiring and feel fruitless.
Christopher Hebert from Tennessee had a news blackout for a year when Trump was elected. I’m sure many would have liked to completely black out his whole term as president. As politics has in filtered many aspects of life, he caught snippets from conversations around him and saw protests on the campus where he teaches, but largely avoided politics. He has more time to listen to audiobooks, felt more at peace and was happier. You may be thinking, isn’t it our duty to be informed and take action against injustice?
Christopher grappled with this question when an activist friend told him she was also going through a similar news blackout, and believed you can still be informed with the bigger picture without constant news overload. Instead of focusing your energy on being angry, you can still look for opportunities to get involved with causes you care about and not feel obligated to constantly be checking your Twitter feed or BBC news for the latest update. After all, we would be completely drained if we knew of every little thing going on in the world and would eventually become numb to feeling any emotion.
Of course it is easier to say ‘I’ll just have a news blackout’ when it isn’t your own life at stake and it is not your own group being marginalised. It can be easier to ignore the ‘politics’ or fundamental human rights of it all. If it is your own group being persecuted, you can’t exactly ‘switch’ off from being Black, bisexual, disabled, an immigrant or whatever it may be, but you can limit your intake of hearing constantly about what your group and other groups face, whether its periodically or ensuring you’re not refreshing Twitter 24/7.
You can ensure you are informed of the big picture, ensure that if you feel moved by a news story or several, you can find ways to take action so that society can change in a positive way so that there are less of these negative stories. If you feel like you just want a day of complete indulgence of the self, then you can binge a new show on Netflix or take a long hike in a park and just uninstall your apps for the day or even for week if you want. You don’t owe it to anyone to devour news at the rate of a journalist; you simply owe it to yourself to be aware of the big picture and to do what you can for society.
For many, this may entail finding a delicate balance and taking breaks from how much negative news we consume so that we don’t become drained, but also in a way that we don’t become ignorant. So next time you’d rather take a Buzzfeed quiz instead of read the latest covid-19 update, just remind yourself, sometimes temporary ignorance really is bliss. You are also allowed to enjoy the positive in life and not just feel defeated by the negative, whatever your position.
There is no point in us living if we can’t take in moments of pleasure in between smashing the patriarchy, fighting for Black Lives Matter or fundraising for Yemen. These breaks from politics can make us better at focusing our energies when fighting for causes close to our hearts because we will have the rest in between that is needed. Much like at work when you are supposed to take a break from the desktop screen to prevent eye strain, we need to take a political or activism break so that we are more efficient in our fight and it is not to the detriment of our wellbeing.