In the last couple of years, I’ve taught myself the discipline of (mostly) avoid all mainstream news.
Far too often I’d get myself caught up in all of the bad news around me and in the world. Too often that meant that my emotions and thoughts would become a reactive blackhole of what I was reading.
So I mostly quit reading news altogether and when I did read some news, I definitely avoided the articles with negative, sensationalist headlines (yes — those that all of us ultimately want to click so badly, because they sound juicy and interesting).
Ask me about the Charleston shooting and I can give you a one-sentence summary without any details of the intricacies that are most surely involved (especially with the debate that I know it’s subsequently created).
Similarly, all I know about the situation in Greece is that they missed a massive payment and that the economy is struggling. (And that economists and government officials worldwide should be held more accountable for the decisions they make, because the rest of us don’t know how the fuck these things can happen.)
Not always knowing what the latest status is on everything that happens in the world might be considered ignorant and to some extent even I think it’s exactly that.
I can however categorically say that it has made be a happier person and that any bad event covered in the news is less likely to have any impact on the way I feel or think.
“It would be nice if bad things happened only in the shadows, if life split easily into camps of darkness and light.”
Last week I attended a conference and on the first morning at 9am the first speaker was introduced.
Amanda Lindhout had been held hostage in Somalia for 15 months and was now an award-winning humanitarian. Her talk would be titled “Freedom in Forgiveness”.
I was intrigued, curious and really keen to hear her tell her story.
What I didn’t know was that for the next hour, I’d be completely captivated and fully immersed in her storytelling. I sat there intently hearing every word she spoke, which inevitably took me on a rollercoaster across the whole spectrum of emotions I could feel in that moment: sadness, anger, hopelessness to inspiration, hope and ambition.
Amanda’s story — and her courage to get on stage to share something that was evidently still very raw in her own head and heart — had inspired me so much that I read her whole book in a 5-hour stretch on my flight back from Berlin to Cape Town yesterday.
Suffice to say that hearing many things for the second time whilst reading the book, I felt no less sadness or shed any fewer tears as I fought to keep my own emotions in check whilst being in a very public (and confined) space.
Amanda’s story has inspired me beyond limits and have provoked so many other ideas and ambitions within me.
Beyond all of this though, it made me realise that trying to run away from evil mostly ends in being a futile pursuit.
The irony in that statement is also not lost on me… I had flown to Berlin to attend a conference where the main theme was “Embrace The Struggle”. Had I tried to avoid all negative things in my life, I might’ve passed on the opportunity.
This would have meant that I would’ve probably never heard Amanda’s story.
When the media did cover Amanda’s capture and release in 2008 / 2009, I was naturally oblivious to it, because I had been exercising my own media (and bad news) isolation.
Yet I have now learnt so much, because of bad news and sad stories.
I might not plan to read that much more mainstream news than I did before, but I have a new appreciation of all things that seem like a struggle, seem like it could only be bad and seem like the only outcome is negative.
Every dark day has a silver lining.
And every depressing story could have an inspirational ending.
How to stay connected in a world without news?
I’m not going to lie and tell you that I have this one figured out (yet). Especially since my approach (of avoiding all bad news) resulted in my missing Amanda’s story, which has actually had a huge impact on me.
For starters I’ve committed to reading more books: old books, new books, happy stories and sad stories. Hopefully through recommendations (from friends & algorithms), I’ll access the best.
How do you stay connected?