Stay engaged or unplug? How do you maintain resilience when 24/7 newsfeeds have you feeling off-balance or overwhelmed?
Hunker Down or Stay Engaged?
I was talking with a friend today. Like so many, she’s feeling blue. Staying on top of the news doesn’t help. Whether it’s Trump, Brexit, Keystone, Women’s March, Syria, snowstorms in California’s Sierra or alternative facts, it can feel too much. Hunkering down is tempting. Especially in January, when some of us haven’t seen the sun for weeks!
But exactly now—we’re told—is the time to stay engaged. To take action. To move outside our favourite bubble. So, valiantly, we stay plugged into our news habits. It’s like being on-call 24/7. Here’s my point, friends. That is not engagement. This is an often un-thinking reaction to the many people who are seeking your precious attention. Often in service of their own ends or egos. Why do we do this?
From Reaction to Direction
I think it’s because we treat our news like its a fixed part of our environment. It’s just there – like the weather.
It may have been Professor Robert Kegan, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who said that as humans evolve over time, what used to be outside influences that we unconsciously reacted to must now be inside influences that we consciously direct. Here are some examples.
Before the invention of electric light, when the sun went down, most people reacted by going to bed. Now we have to intentionally cultivate healthy sleep habits. With 30% of adults experiencing symptoms of insomnia, we know this isn’t always easy.
Before mass farming and effective long distance transportation, most people reacted by eating local food. That’s all they could get. Now if we want “100 mile” food or organic produce, we have to cultivate healthy food habits.
Before the development of social media, we in the developed world got our news once or twice a day, with the morning newspaper or the evening TV news. But we are still reacting like we live in a 20th century news environment. It’s there, so we automatically react. We read, scan, view or listen to our various news feeds.
Neither compulsive reactions nor its opposite of disengagement are healthy news habits.
Make Your News Fix an Intentional Habit
So how can you stay engaged without going crazy? Or getting totally depressed?
Lately, I’ve changed my habits. I check my feeds two times a day. (usually) My attention, time and energy are precious. So, I’m choosy about what I open. Or share.
Don’t just react to your news feeds. Decide how you’re going to interact.
Make your news feeds an intentional practice. Treat is like a mindful activity, rather than a mindless reaction to your feeds. Consider who or what topics you want to follow, when in the day you’ll make time for this, how you’ll discern quality sources, what information and energy you want to amplify by sharing it. And after a week or so, see if you feel any better!