On April 18, 1930, at 8:45 pm British citizens who gathered around their radios to listen to the BBC news segment heard the following: “Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news.” That announcement was followed by fifteen minutes of piano music and, I’m guessing, a fair bit of stunned silence in living rooms throughout the country.
Can you even imagine a news outlet making such a statement today? And if they did, can you imagine how we, the consumers, would react? I suspect the very absence of news would be viewed as a story in itself. Other media outlets would likely report that the BBC was losing its edge and failing in its duty to bring the news to the citizens of the world. Pundits might jump in with their own form of criticism, loudly arguing with one another about the new role of the media in propagating the nonstories of the day and longing for the good old days of the 24-hour news cycle.
Because we definitely live in a world driven by news. Whether it’s good, bad, fake, or irrelevant, it’s around us all the time, demanding our attention and affecting our mental health.
I’ve written about this before, about the need to occasionally take a little break, something I think all of us should consider occasionally doing. But I recently had a pretty lengthy experience doing just that.
I am not a strict adherent to the tradition of fasting from something during Lent. Still, this year, it occurred to me that I might have something in my life that I would genuinely benefit from giving up.
I chose, for forty days, to give up the news. I didn’t give up the news entirely of course. I’m on the internet a lot and I saw plenty of headlines. Also, scrolling through social media I occasionally spotted a story that had people riled up. But I tried very hard not to engage much with the stories I saw. I even entirely gave up my primary source of news, which for quite a few years has been talk radio.
For about two weeks, it was hard. Like really hard. I had this constant, nagging feeling that I was missing out on important discussions about important events that would dramatically shape the future of the world and how human beings relate to one another.
Then I realized, I wasn’t. Because any of the big stories, like the shootings in New Zealand, the fire at Notre Dame, or the bombings in Sri Lanka, managed to get through. And thankfully some other stuff didn’t. For example, for 40+ days, I had no idea what snarky tweets President Trump had sent out into the world, or what new candidate had thrown his or her hat into the Democratic presidential primary race, or what any of the Kardashians were getting up to.
And that felt kind of amazing.
For that forty days plus Sundays, my mind became a little less cluttered, my stress level became a little lower, and my perspective became a little bit healthier. It was like a great big mental cleanse. I thought I’d probably more or less stick with it by intentionally limiting my exposure to constant news.
Then today I had to make a long, early morning drive. Because music tends to make me sleepy behind the wheel I turned on talk radio. I found out that former Vice President Joe Biden is now the twentieth person officially running for the Democratic presidential nomination and that President Trump has already tweeted snark about it.
Neither of these two pieces of information was much of surprise. It kind of seemed like there really was no news to report, at least not at that time of today. Or perhaps the news outlets I tuned in to just weren’t reporting on the most surprising or fascinating stories. I mean, I still don’t know what the Kardashians have been up to lately.
13 thoughts on “No News is Good News”
Today, nothing like that could be said because “the news” is really nothing but entertainment.
So, could they say this?
That might just work. And would probably be true.
What a fantastic Lenten resolution. I gave up butter – which didn’t provide the same long-term perspective. It’s difficult to sort out what in the news trash is recyclable. I watch very little news which means I’m free of verbiage but on the other hand don’t know the name of my Prime Minister (who I believe had a baby).
Butter would be harder than news radio.
I wasn’t entirely successful (at giving up butter)
I love your resolution and will try it next year. This year I deleted FreeCell, my favorite card game, for Lent. I’ve decided not to reinstall it as all it does is help me procrastinate. Thanks for sharing. As always, your post is informative and thought provoking. Bravo.
That’s a good choice, too. So many ways to procrastinate.
I’ve been doing something similar! It’s not for Lent, but a suggestion from a podcast to do a “fast” from social media for a month to see how you feel. Same as you, for the first couple weeks, I felt that urge to take a peek, but resisted. Three weeks in and I feel like a new mindset has clicked on in my head (much less comparison-itis) and I’ve been amazingly productive.
That’s great! I have considered taking a break from social media, but in the back of my mind is always the dreaded platform. I start thinking if I’m not present on social media readers will forget about me and my books. Probably not true, but it’s the struggle.
Believe me, I’m struggling with the exact same worry in the back of my head (not that anyone on social media gives a poo about my books anyway ; ) ). The podcast that advised doing this is in fact a writing/book marketing podcast and they said you will definitely be feeling that platform pull. It will be interesting to compare March’s sales figures with April’s to see if the worry is grounded.
I’d love to hear what you find out!
I often think the news these days has more to do with village gossip, particularly when it comes to the Tweets Of A Certain President. I try and avoid news as much as possible, but all I have managed to do is avoid the ‘Kardashians’. Well, I can’t entirely avoid them, but I have no idea what they are, what they did to become famous, or why they are famous. Perhaps they are proof that it’s possible to become famous by doing nothing? (I always thought people had to do SOMETHING to be famous, like our PM here in NZ, who’s just catapulted to world status by showing people how to be nice to each other).
Well, people should be nice to each other I suppose. But yes, I think you’re right. The news seems to report very few newsworthy things. And there’s only so much anger and tragedy a person can absorb at once. I think it’s okay if we don’t always know everything. Also, I don’t know why the Kardashians are famous either. I’ve never been able to figure it out.