Media

You Have Permission to Take a Media Break

Yes, it’s important to be informed. But at the end of your life, will you be glad for all the hours you spent obsessing over the news?

Photo Credit: Tepikina Nastya/Shutterstock

It seems, somehow, we’ve been living in the 12 Days of Kristallnacht before the Election. That is an exaggeration, but if you’re plugged in to the news constantly, it can certainly feel that way.

The proverbial shit is hitting the proverbial fan, and it’s enough to make you want to curl up in a ball, under the covers, and emerge sometime in 2021, when, miraculously, all this has passed.

Except, few of us have that luxury.

What’s an American to do?

How about unplugging from the endless stream of media for a bit?

Just unplug.

Turn off NPR. And the television. Sign out of your social media accounts and Netflix and Prime and Hulu. Stop looking at your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds. Turn off the television. Stop reading the comments section.

Just don’t look.

Go ahead and stick your head in the proverbial sand. It’ll be ok.

Why give so much of your precious time, energy, and attention to The One Whose Name Does Not Need To Be Chanted Anymore?

Everyone in the media—even the New York Times—is feasting on your attention right now. Why give them that much of your energy?

Give it to your family. To your community. To the people and places around you who need a hug, food, shelter, support. There are lots of them. They need your energy right now more than Facebook needs your comments or likes and more than the GOP needs your rants.

Every breath wasted arguing on Facebook or sharing some snark in the comments or on Twitter is a moment not spent fostering peace in your own community. In your own town. In your own home.

Go ahead. Just disconnect.

Do you feel that crushing anxiety of what will happen if you do?

How about starting with one 24-hour period that is device and news-free?

Can’t go for a full 24-hours? Start with 12 hours. Heck, start with just one hour a week where you are not breathlessly following media. See what happens.

I promise, the world will not end. All of The One Whose Name Does Not Need To Be Chanted Anymore’s tweets will still be memorialized by every major media outlet. You’ll be able to revisit them when you plug back in. That’s the magic of the internet: Everything will still be there in a day or two, and if it isn’t, someone has a screengrab, or the wayback machine will have archived it.

If you feel like you need a flow of information, perhaps you can read a book. Or go to the library.

Look: The only thing you have control over is yourself. Few things in this world are too important to miss, and the things that are too important to miss are not found on Facebook or NPR or CNN.

The things that you don’t want to miss are found in your family, with your community and friends. It’s shared meals and laughter and hugs and a baby’s first word or first step. It’s real life. It’s being present for someone in the real world, to comfort them or help them in a moment of need.

And those things you don’t want to miss in real life are all rooted in Love.

What’s 100 percent rooted in love online? Or in the news?

Nothing. And all that stuff will be there for you later. But those moments of love might not be. There will be more moments of love, sure, but you’re going to have to unplug to fully appreciate and embrace them.

I’m not saying spend the next few years in a cave. Nor am I suggesting you embrace ignorance.

What I am saying is carve out mental space for the real world; conserve your energy for cultivating a better world in your own life.

Yes, it’s important to be informed. But at the end of your life, I suspect you won’t be glad for all the hours you spent scrolling through Twitter or the New York Times app. No one, on their deathbed, says, “I’m so glad for the time I wasted on Twitter scrolling through half-baked ideas, bad jokes, conspiracy, and hate speech.”

Take a moment and unplug. For your health and the health of people and communities in the real world. It’ll be ok.

You might even be glad you did.

This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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Valerie Vande Panne is an Independent Media Institute writing fellow who contributes to Columbia Journalism Review and Reuters news service, among other outlets. She is the former editor-in-chief of Detroit's alt-weekly, the Metro Times, and the former news editor of High Times magazine. She is the founder of Blackbird Literacy, an organization providing books to residents and literacy programs in Detroit. Connect with her on Twitter @asktheduchess.