Why I’m having a ‘Slow News’ week

Real-time news is exhausting, especially on Twitter. It’s time to take a break.

Almost every day I spot a tweet about something happening RIGHT NOW, and it draws me in. Maybe Donald Trump said something awful again, maybe early reports are coming in of a violent incident somewhere, maybe a politician just quit their post, maybe BuzzFeed staff are just sticking Post-it notes on the world’s largest cucumber for no good reason — it doesn’t really matter what it is, but if I latch onto it, I’m hooked.

And when I’m hooked, I can’t stop looking at Twitter until it’s over. The breaking news updates, the jokes, the memes, the hoaxes and the debunks… they bombard my brain in 140-character doses. I’m a news junkie so I love riding the wave of Twitter to consume every last morsel of information about a story as it happens.

But it’s draining, it’s bad for my productivity and it’s far from being the optimal way to understand what’s happening in the world. Standing under that waterfall of information means it’s easy to focus on largely irrelevant details or form badly grounded opinions about things we don’t understand yet.

A week of ‘Slow News’

I’m fighting back by having a ‘Slow News’ week. I’m not going to look at Tweetdeck, I’m switching off Twitter notifications, and I’m not going to gorge myself on real-time news.

I’m also switching off breaking news alerts on my phone from apps like BBC News, the Guardian and the New York Times. Nuzzel, which tells me when lots of people I follow share the same link, is getting switched off too.

I’m giving myself five short Twitter sessions each day: 8am, noon, 4pm, 8pm and midnight. I’ll rely on Twitter’s ‘while you were away’ feature to catch up on what I’ve missed there. I’ll get the bulk of my news from spending 30 minutes per day reading articles on news sites and checking Nuzzel’s summary of what’s being shared by people I follow. I might even watch some TV news, too. In the morning over breakfast I’ll listen to the Today programme on BBC Radio Four.

I’ll still know what’s happening in the world, but I’m ripping the drip out of my arm and getting my fix in a slightly less intense manner.

Just thinking about this experiment makes me feel a little nervous. In recent years I’ve grown reliant on Twitter’s constant drip-feed of news to keep me in touch with the world. And yet, I think it’s good to challenge what I’m used to and give my brain a break. If something huge happens, I’ll find out soon enough — and maybe I’ll learn something about myself along the way, too.

My hypothesis is that I’ll be desperate to get into the real-time fray again in a couple of days’ time, but we’ll see…

Next week, I’ll share how it went.

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