I Unplugged From the News for a Week -- Here's Why It Didn't Help My Sanity

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Research shows that heavy media consumption comes at a price. (Yes, even if you're reading online articles for free.)


Fearful thoughts. Increased anxiety. Trouble sleeping. Even the potential for developing PTSD.

After learning this --- and admitting to myself that I mainline news like addicts do heroin -- I decided to go cold turkey on ALL media for one week.

The best case scenario? I would stop feeling that the human race is essentially doomed.

The worst case scenario? I would turn to dust and blow away due to lack of information and entertainment.

Here's what really happened.

Day 1

This is So. Hard. (And no, not because Brangelina just called it quits.) Apparently, I have a reflexive habit of clicking onto Google News every time I'm curious, bored, trying to distract myself, or, you know, breathing.

I steel myself to close the window each time without reading, but in the seconds before I do, my brain still greedily registers headlines about gun violence, vandalism, banking scandals, and, yes, Brangelina.

At one point I find myself complaining, "I've already gone four hours without news!" Then I have the horrific realization: Dear God. It's only been one.

This is not an auspicious beginning.

Day 2

Instead of waking up and reading news headlines on my phone before I'm even out of bed, I just ... wake up. Like in the olden days.

Huh. This is almost relaxing.

And instead of spending 20 (okay, 30) minutes trolling the Internet, cringing and gasping at the latest news stories and feeling like my heart will break, I just ... get to work.  

My usual MO during the day is to take little breaks and -- you guessed it -- catch up on the news. Not today!

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Day 3

Does listening to the news count as "real" news? The news addict in me says they're two totally different things, so I sneak a little NPR in the car.

When the news anchor announces that a crowded bus has gone up in flames, I switch to music. But in that minute, my heart has begun racing and my palms are clammy.

Bad news is physically painful, apparently.

Day 4

"Tell me what's going on in the news," I beg my husband. But because he's excellent at keeping secrets and following rules, he refuses to do so.

My phone senses what I'm going through and tries to help. Thanks to a software update, as soon as I unlock my phone, I'm presented with three news headlines. They're the worst of the worst. A mall shooting. A police shooting. An accidental shooting.

It's like being a homesteader on the prairie when a crazy person suddenly gallops through on horseback, shouting, "Danger's a-comin'! Danger's comin'!"

And I can't do anything but wait and worry.

Day 5

Hoping the world is turning as usual. Because hell if I know.

Five hours pass painfully slowly, but I NEED to know how the world is turning! I am craving to read headlines, blurbs, something.

Willpower wins out and I end up watching ... a movie trailer. The only news here is that it looks like the movie will suck.

When my son says he needs to watch the presidential debate for school, I nearly break into tears. As a good parent, I must watch with him. Right?

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Day 6

A small news slip -- yes, it was about the debate, if you must know -- leads me down a small rabbit hole of news. Murder rates, Arctic melting, corrupt politicans, severance package clawbacks.

Afterward, I don't feel satiated. I feel annoyed for wasting the last seven minutes of my life. And strangely empty.

For every news story I read, what I really want is a happy ending.

Day 7

I made it. (Mostly.) And here's what I've learned.

Gorging myself on news DOES up my anxiety, not to mention pisses away a lot of spare time in my day.

Will I give it up completely? Nah. Let's be honest. I'll be getting a helping first thing tomorrow morning. Maybe even minutes from now. But I won't enjoy it as much as I used to.

And news flash! Perhaps I won't let myself get as worked up by everything in the news, knowing what it feels like to be free of that stress. But -- who knows? Maybe that's just wishful thinking. 


Image via chrisdorney/Shutterstock

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