Dear 100 Hour Board,
I think it's important to stay up to date on current events. But I am super sensitive to the feeling of contention that pervades so much of the political news, and when reading about anything else these days (natural disasters, shootings, wars, humanitarian issues) I just feel an overwhelming sadness. How do I stay informed, and also stay connected to on social media (which seems to be the biggest culprit of the contention I mentioned), without feeling so burdened and so unhappy?
That really is a challenge in our society, especially with everything that has gone on in the past few weeks. I talked to some of my fellow political science students, and this is the advice we've come up with:
- Take breaks from the news during a dead news cycle. Since news is constantly trying to be new and shocking, they'll often turn to extreme negativity and contention to get attention during those times.
- The mood you're in matters. You'll be more prepared to face and deal with negativity if you only spend a few minutes reading the news, as opposed to getting on TV or social media to relax and being confronted with those stories.
- Follow Mr. Roger's advice: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” For instance, I love how many people are donating blood following the Las Vegas shooting. There is positivity out there, if you will look for it.
- Reading short summaries of current events is a good way to stay up to date while not getting too invested. I really like Utah Policy's daily newsletter. They email you a quick summary of current events, and link the articles so you can research more into depth if you want.
- Stay away from comment boards.
- We all have those friends who love to post political articles or contentious material on social media. Unfollow or learn to ignore them. Maybe if we all unfollow them, they'll stop posting that stuff online. One can only dream.
- Be involved in your community. I'd highly suggest listening to Sister Oscarson's talk from this last General Conference. Whether you're providing service for your family, reaching out to your neighbors, going to Church service activities, or giving aid for those in Las Vegas or Puerto Rico, you'll know you've done your part to make the world a better place. I often feel depressed when listening to the news because I feel helpless. But when I'm reading about the destruction in Puerto Rico and know I've contributed to the Church's humanitarian fund, I feel a bit better about the news and about myself.
- Above all, know you're not alone. I'm certain most - if not all - of your friends are also saddened and distraught by what's going on in the world. Perhaps they too are as affected by the news as you are. By sharing your feelings with them, you both might find a help and support in each other. And maybe you could both work together to start to make the world a better place.
-guppy of doom
There are lots of tips and tricks for staying connected without being overwhelmed. I'll outline a few apps and news sources in a minute. But really I think it is a human need to reconcile oneself with the world in a deep encompassing way. Some events may require you to re-reconcile. But what I'm talking about is forming a worldview that allows you to live in and look at the world, feel joy, yet still feel motivated to change it.
People of faith have very effective tools for this. We call them prayer and service.
When horrible things happen, either publicly or in my personal life, I usually start asking for a testimony of those events. As a witness of those events come I also find answers as to what I should do in response. At least for me, it's ultimately a conversation with God about control.
I'm not really asking if the events are "His plan" or if they're "necessary for a greater good." To be honest, they make me too angry to think of God orchestrating them. I'm mostly just asking if they are true. Do they fit His view of the world? I'm asking how He wants me to think and feel about them. And then, probably most importantly, what he wants me to do about them.
Whether this is your process or not, I encourage you to spend the time and try to make sense of the world as a whole. Write things down, read a little bit of philosophy, pray. Whatever it is that will help you deal with the world without dismissing it.
As far as practical tips go I have two recommendations.
1) Control Facebook.
As you accurately surmised social media can be divisive, biased, depressing, and downright inaccurate. However, none of us want to cut it out completely because it does help us keep up with people who are important to us. My advice is to do everything you can to reduce the "media" part and keep the "social" part. Cut out the politics and entertainment and use it to reach out.
Technical control: Facebook purity is a browser add-on that allows you to filter facebook content. I have found the most effective feature is where it allows you to filter out any posts with key phrases that you provide. I have entered phrases like "Trump, Clinton, wrong, etc." It feels like you're censoring and cutting yourself off from reality, but you're not. The point is to replace fake/biased/stratified news with the real stuff. I also like to add phrases that filter out unoriginal content. I want to read my friend's status that they actually wrote. So I put phrases like "watch, share, also me" etc.
The second part of controlling facebook is to have a purpose in mind, accomplish that purpose, and get off. Some research has shown that people experience more pleasure in the act of social searching than social browsing. Meaning people who log on to facebook to find out how a friend is doing, to invite someone to a movie, or to see a friend's engagement photos are having a better time than those who endlessly scroll through videos, memes, and political rants. Make sure your facebook use is active and not passive.
2) Find a short summary news-source. The Economist is a bit biased but it's not terrible. I like their Espresso app. It does cost money, but its very easy to read through and have good idea of what's happening each day. A few times I felt their highlights were not important and that was annoying, but for the most part I find it pretty refreshing. Just find something you trust that gives you what you need to be aware of the world around you.
This is something that I've thought about a lot. It's hard for me to feel like I can be legitimately involved in the world and not get caught up in the hatred and the vitriol. But something that I've tried to do is to internalize a lot of different kinds of media. I've tried to listen and read ideas from both sides. This doesn't stop me from having opinions, but I often feel that it stops me from feeling overwhelmingly depressed or angry. I try not to read the most unbiased news, but to consume it from varied angles. That seems to work really well for me.
Keep it real,
The New York Times Daily Briefing is a great way to stay up to date on the news without spending tons of time or getting too emotionally weighed down. It's a daily (free) email where they briefly review main points from national and international news, so it gives you a lot more information than just reading the headlines, but is a lot faster than spending hours combing through different news sources and reading all the different stories. And because it covers most stories with no more than a short blurb, it's not as emotionally crushing as reading a whole article on an issue. They also do a good job of at least trying to stay impartial in the briefing, and will often link to articles from both the left and the right side of the spectrum. You can sign up for it here. I have a subscription to it, and I really love it, especially when I don't have time to spend hours reading through articles from a variety of news outlets, which is usually what I prefer to do.
And when social media gets to be too much, take a break. I know that can be hard to do, but first of all, it will give you more time to do other stuff, and second of all, it's an emotional detox. Last week one of my Facebook friends shared a bunch of posts about how the Las Vegas gunman was actually an undercover FBI agent who was tragically targeted by ISIS, who then carried out the attack in his name, and how the FBI is secretly working with ISIS, and we should mourn him as a hero, bla bla bla. And honestly, I was furious that someone could be so ignorant and hateful as to paint a mass murderer as a hero. I spent so long thinking about what could possibly be going on in that particular Facebook friend's head, and thinking of all the ways all their claims were so patently false, and generally despairing for humanity, before I finally realized how much I was weighing myself down. So I put myself on a Facebook fast for a couple days to let everything blow over and calm down, and it helped a lot. I didn't miss any huge events or announcements in my friends' lives, I didn't lose my connection to the outside world, I just helped myself calm down, and that was so worth it. So if you're feeling unhappy and burdened by the things you're seeing on social media, take a break, and then use the time that you would normally spend on social media serving your community somehow. Nothing chases away despair and hopelessness like doing good.
It seems like when news is biased, it's a lot more depressing and detrimental to one's mental health. A good way to keep a balanced view of the world could be to find a news media as fair as possible. My AP Euro teacher recommended going to the BBC for news (specifically US news) because they are removed from our country's culture and therefore less biased. That being said, they're probably still ranging a tad on the liberal side.
And as Alta said, taking breaks seems important. Maybe try to limit yourself to reading up on the news once a day or every several days, depending on how informed you want to be. That way, you don't get an informational overload. Also, if a loved one on social media posts news stories that are a) biased or b) emotionally inflammatory to you, you don't have to unfriend them but consider unfollowing them so said news doesn't come up on your feed.
I don't believe any organization is free of bias, including the BBC. The goal is to try and identify the bias, which, as far as the BBC is concerned I still feel is pretty Western. Al Jazeera is a well-respected news organization based in Qatar with some pretty decent world reporting (lately, this has meant good coverage of Mogadishu) and often a very different perspective than the BBC or US media organizations.
P.S. Apparently Spotify also has some daily international news podcast things, and NPR has a good international news section as well (which they also broadcast daily).
I have to limit myself to a certain amount of time or scrolls. That way I get a brief overview of what is happening and it makes me selective on what news I read more about. I think getting an overview without getting bogged down with all of the details has helped me from staying upbeat.
Also, I don't read much into any sexual assault story or anything like that because it leaves me utterly disgusted and it can take me a while before I am back to feeling normal. This isn't to say that those stories aren't helpful, I just don't like having to read the ins and outs of something as disgusting and perverse as that.
-Sunday Night Banter