Priorities, Anxiety, and The News

Today, a loved one and I were discussing a political news site over email. He has gotten a lot of joy and a lot of insight from this particular website, and he encouraged me to read it. When I said I did read it occasionally, he encouraged me further to read it every day, as he did.

As I found myself responding, I was surprised at all the places in my life that my response touched on, so I thought I’d share it here. More of the same from me, perhaps, but I suppose that’s part of what makes it important. This stuff is really important to me. In the end, he supported my decision.

I’ll be candid in the hopes that it’s illuminating and helpful.

My lifestyle and personal needs and tolerances right now won’t allow me to read political news regularly, for several reasons. I’ll explain why. I know this matters to you.

1 – I am so busy that I have not yet had a single week in which I have been completely faithful to God, my family’s needs, my clients’ needs, and my own needs. And I haven’t even listed friendships or “societal duties” in there! I am always letting at least one of those things down significantly. I’m not OK with that. I need to use my very limited time and will power to improve that situation before I add more daily habits into the mix, which would once again make it more challenging to be faithful to all of the above.

2 – I am predisposed to severe anxiety and some depression, too. The news not only doesn’t help that situation, but it actually makes it far worse. On rare occasions it has been severe enough that I couldn’t function day-to-day. That’s not OK, because it hurts #1 above. But, I have found a massive improvement in personal peace and clarity since 2008 when I stopped watching live TV and stopped regularly reading the news. It has improved further since leaving Facebook. I am literally never upset about politics outside of election day, and random days on which I give in and start paying close attention to the news. (Then I often get upset again, while never having any way to take action and improve the situation outside voting.)

In short, I find through experience that I can’t handle the news. I’m convinced it’s psychologically unhealthy for me to read news regularly and get into the “daily churn” of ceaseless noise and politically-motivated grousing. Especially if I’m under the impression I can or should do something about it. Others can and should. At least during this decade, I cannot and should not. My wife and my kids and the other things listed above are my priority, and they take everything I have to give.

As a nice bonus, the stories that matter come to me eventually through organic means, and I read about them and discuss them then. 95% of it does not matter and never will. It’s shocking how much of what’s reported never comes to pass and never matters. The news media attempt to keep my attention for their own benefit, not for my benefit. So I take my attention back into my own hands, and spend it on #1 above, where it should be.

That’s how I see this whole issue, and why I distance myself from it as much as possible. It’s my hope that given the positive personal changes I’m going through, I might actually be able to add more to my plate in a few years. But it won’t be soon.

Josh

I hope you’ll all consider doing the same, leaving the news mostly behind and spending more of your time on the things that actually matter, where you can have a real effect in people’s lives.

I know that some people can and should have a positive, even huge influence in politics, but I become more convinced as time goes on that most of us can’t, and yet most of us are also out there shouting at each other online or in person, getting mad, discussing everything ad nauseam. Must we? I don’t think so. I don’t think it accomplishes more harm than good these days, in this culture, in this context.

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