‘Al, I’m feeling flat as a pancake,’ I said.
‘Why are you flat? Let’s analyse it,’ Alastair asked (for I have trained him well).
After some navel gazing, we concluded that The Daily Mail had tipped me over the edge. My fear antenna was going beserk. I had just read a story about a 30-year-old woman with terminal cancer, another about a guy who had thrown himself off a bridge and another about killer additives in food.
Alastair and I decided that enough was enough. It was time for drastic action. Alastair blocked access to The Daily Mail on our router which means we can’t open this website on any electronic device in our house. The reason for this intervention was because I was addicted and I didn’t have the self-discipline to simply stop reading The Daily Mail myself.
MailOnline is the electronic version of the British newspaper called The Daily Mail. It has over 100 million readers every month and is one of the most visited ‘news’ websites in the world. It breathlessly reports on current events, celebrities and general misfortune with the relentlessness and speed of an ambulance-chaser. It is a tabloid masquerading as Serious News and it pulls this off very well.
MailOnline is the best source of celebrity gossip in the world. At the time of the intervention, I was perusing MailOnline at least 6 times a day and my celebrity general knowledge was unsurpassable. It was instant escapism to read about Kim Kardashian’s dress at an award’s ceremony or peer at a picture of Kate Middleton doing her grocery shopping.
The Daily Mail helped me relax but it had a more sinister, insidious impact on my subconscious too. The Daily Mail is emotive and describes events in gory detail. It stokes fear and anxiety because it convincingly paints the world as a tragic place, full of horrors and threats. As someone who is easily alarmed, The Daily Mail was not good for my mental health. I can’t read something gruesome or upsetting one minute and forget about it the next.
It has been 2 months since I stopped reading MailOnline. I am less anxious although Droopy is still hovering and I have realized that the problem is not just The Daily Mail but ALL news.
I should have been born 50 years ago when there was no internet and the newspaper arrived once a day. Now we have constant online access to news from multiple sources and it is updated in real time. At least three times a day, I check BBC, news24, CNN and a few others. News is inherently negative and depressing and for a glass-half-empty person with no self-control (like me), it causes all sorts of anxiety and paranoid fretting. I started practicing my French by reading French news sites, which means that I am not only depressing myself in English, but in French too.
As my favourite columnist Charlie Brooker said,
To be alive on Planet Earth is to be pinned by an unseen gravitational force beyond your control to the surface of an almighty bauble of death cluttered with sharp objects, death traps, diseases, disasters and killers concocting new and exotic means of inflicting agony upon your person, all of it revolving silently in an infinite and eternal vacuum, the sheer insensate vastness of which is simply too ghastly for the human mind to contemplate.
I am easily sucked into the whirlpool that is Breaking News. After events such as the Sandy Hook shootings, the Boston Bombing or the Oscar Pistorius shooting, I scoured news websites and read different versions of the same story over and over as I tried to scope out a tidbit I hadn’t heard before.
I think we are a news-obsessed society. But news wastes time and doesn’t improve life in any way. It just gives us more things to worry about.
I came across this article in The Guardian. It says news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. AMEN! Hear Hear! I agree!
News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind. Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be.
News is irrelevant, toxic, makes us passive and acts as a drug. The article goes on to say
News wastes time. If you read the newspaper for 15 minutes each morning, then check the news for 15 minutes during lunch and 15 minutes before you go to bed, then add five minutes here and there when you’re at work, then count distraction and refocusing time, you will lose at least half a day every week. Information is no longer a scarce commodity. But attention is. You are not that irresponsible with your money, reputation or health. Why give away your mind?.
I have given too much of my precious and scarce attention to news and social media. My computer and its internet connection is just noise – a very loud, very distracting hum. I must quit. I must throw my computer into a fast-flowing river.