Don't Let the News Take Control of Your Life
Tips for Dealing with Today’s News
Here’s the thing: You’re in control of the news you allow into your life.
That’s the most essential advice I can offer in this extraordinary time. It also happens to be the one thing about the media that the majority of the public doesn’t get.
No doubt, by now you’re suffering news and information fatigue from the 24/7 news coverage of the coronavirus. Truth is, this news cycle is just beginning to ramp up, as it follows a pandemic that has yet to hit its peak. (The two go hand-in-hand.) That means the time to get control over your news habit is right now.
You probably recall a simpler time, pre-Information Age, when you waited for the newspaper to hit your doorstep or you turned on the evening news to discover what was happening in the world. Fast forward to today, where the news follows you and provides an incessant white noise to fill your head with too much information. Left unchecked, it becomes the soundtrack of your life, which can be quite a dismal development, even in the best of times.
The good news is this: It’s actually quite easy to get your news habit in check.
To begin with, set limits on your exposure to news coverage. You don’t need to check the news every few minutes. The beauty of today’s news formats is that they repeat information throughout the day, and the Internet provides the news with infinite hang time. This lets you catch up on what’s happening and stops the news from invading your life. As a best practice, read your newspapers in the morning, check television news and the Internet at intervals throughout the day for updates.
If the fear of missing out is lurking in your subconscious, keep this in mind: In normal times, breaking news should be taken with a grain of salt. In a historic pandemic, the likelihood of the information that’s being reported as it happens will often change dramatically.
It’s less about the quality of the news media and more about the state of the situation: Authorities are trying their best to provide answers, but they themselves don’t know if they’re right. Social distancing started at three feet, then moved to six. The CDC now advises six-to-10 feet. The story evolves as more becomes known. Relax and treat breaking news like the 1.0 version of any app, where you know it will be full of bugs that will need to be worked out later.
Also, note this: If you’re watching cable news, and you’re now re-watching the same news being repeated, the reality is you’ve sat on the couch too long. Go get some exercise, talk to your kids, do anything but what you’re doing. Wait a few hours before you pick up the remote.
If your phone is your constant companion, you will be getting pinged each time a news outlet updates a Coronavirus story. Getting multiple pings doesn’t mean the world is ending faster than anticipated. It simply means each outlet is doing its job. Pay attention to the news, not the number of pings.
And, when it comes to social media, remember it’s the land of reaction and animal videos, not a reliable source of fact-checked information. So, unless you’re friends with a bunch of infectious disease experts, don’t go to Facebook for your news. Don’t share information from unnamed sources, or advice from people who aren’t recognized authorities. That’s what got people making hand sanitizer with vodka. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work.)
Break things down for yourself so it’s not you against “the media.” Tune in to reporters that you trust. Look for those who put their stories into perspective. A quality news report should make you feel armed with facts.
Last, but not least, pay attention to what the news is doing to your kids. While you may be setting limits on the amount of time they are online or watching television, you may not realize that news playing in the background is something they can actively absorb. While you may know images of people wearing facemasks are coming from remote places, a small child sees it happening in his or her living room. Be sure to talk to children about what’s happening and offer reassurance they are safe.
When all is said and done, the news should empower you. Don’t waste your time on anything less than that.
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