An Eclectic Human
A newsletter about design, community, and being a human

1.14 We can always walk away from the screens

Talking about my news habits resonated with several of you, and you brought up some great points. Let’s have a look.

First, from Matt, citizenship in a democracy:

It’s interesting that you didn’t mention voting at all with this topic. That’s what I assume people mean when they talk about being a good citizen, be it of the community, state, or nation, all of which are currently being influenced by each other and by the world at large. Problems in these spheres are what the people we’re voting for are supposed to be addressing. If they’re not, that’s a problem, and we’ll only know by keeping up with current events in some form.

Maria also touched on this:

I feel similarly about the news, but for perhaps a slightly different reason. As you said, the news is rewarded for being sensational, dramatic, and shocking. For me, that often means sickening as well. If news outlets focused on informing me, giving me important details that could help me in my daily life, I would focus more on it. However, I often find that the negative tenor of the news weighs heavily on me, and limits my ability to continue with my day in the same productive manner as before my encounter. The media seems to focus on the bad things, and report the good things in what feels to me as almost mocking jest. I’d rather avoid the discomfort that comes from engaging in the news. Particularly when it comes to pop culture news, where celebrities’ personal lives are front and center, I find the news opposite of enriching.

That being said, I do feel responsible for being aware of what’s going on when called on to cast a vote. However, the constant bickering on Capitol Hill turns me away from remaining up to date on politics. As a result, when election time comes, I do as much research as possible on the actual issues of government instead of the scandal surrounding personal lives.

The news seems more invested in reporting gossip than facts. I find that information I really need comes through family and friends. I’d rather rely on them than sift through hundreds of news stories a day to find pertinent information.

I didn’t talk about this at all, but I wholeheartedly agree with Maria and Matt on this issue. It is my duty as a citizen in a democracy to vote, and it becomes me to be an informed voter as well. So while this may mean sorting through the politicizing and mudslinging that are part and parcel of modern American campaigns, I still think being informed in matters of politics when I can influence them is important.

From Walt:

There was a TV station in Los Angeles that used to have news from 4:30 PM until the network’s evening news. I used to watch the whole thing, even though many of the stories were repeated in each 30 or 60 minute segment.

I’ve dramatically cut back (but not eliminated) news-seeking since then.

The primary benefit I find by not seeking out much news is that I’m not reading or watching the same story repeatedly. I have more time for the things that are important. Also, the “big” stories get shared (Twitter, etc), so I usually know about them anyway.

This touches again on an aspect of social filtering. Both the people around me and the people I choose to follow online will talk about the stories that are important to them. Often, that also means I have some interest in those things, too.

But I also try not to deliberately create a filter bubble by only listening to people similar to me. I try to make sure my Twitter feed includes people with different views, be they political, religious, regional, or otherwise. While this potentially exposes me to a larger amount of news, I think the increased breadth is important in determining what news I actually pay attention to.

Dylan discussed another angle of news consumption—addiction:

I’ve been trying to change my habits regarding news lately. It’s an unhealthy addiction for me, along the same lines as smartphones and the Internet in general, though more depressing. I used to think that I loved being constantly connected, but now I hate it, and yet it’s so hard to break away from. I know I can do it, it probably wouldn’t even take much more than a week to get used to being less connected, but I’ve trained my mind to be bored so easily.

If I had any advice to give, it’d be to be conscious of that. We’re bombarded with so much and at all times, and that’s only our own faults. We can always walk away from the screens.

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In that vein, let’s conclude this week with a story about eating scrambled eggs. It’s about doing something deliberately, mindfully, for its own sake, without shame:

You will taste and chew and swallow and smile as you revel in an experience that you have given yourself permission to have, without guilt or judgement.

I like to do this on occasion so that I think about the food I’m eating, where it came from, what it took to get it to me, how it sits in my hand or on the spoon, how it smells, what it feels like on my tongue. Doing that has the power to make me more aware of the impact I have on the earth and the other humans and animals around me. It doesn’t necessarily make me enjoy the food more or less, but it does make me more conscious of it, as Dylan says, and that can be a powerful thing.

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Have you had an experience in which paying attention to every detail changed your perspective or your behavior? Is there one you’d like to try this week?