Being a good neighbor, good citizen, good human being means staying in the know, but not necessarily about everything right away — definitely not to the detriment of our health.
Declare a News-Free Day | 21
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This is The Good List — I’m Tsh Oxenreider.
Some of you may remember that last summer, I took a month-long sabbatical from my work, the first long break I’d ever taken in the 12 years since I started writing and podcasting. It was long overdue, I was nearing burnout, and it was a game-changer for me. Not only did I not work, but I was only ever on a screen to watch a show or movie. I took a month off the internet, more or less — no social media, no article or blog reading, hardly any podcast-listening, and definitely no working. It was just what my body, soul, and spirit needed. Time moved by slower, I could concentrate for much, much longer periods of time, I slept better, my mood improved, and overall, I felt like a brand new person after that month offline. This break taught me one important thing: I’m affected by my screen time, far more than I realize when I’m in the thick of it.
I eased back into things, and for the most part, kept up with some newfound habits: no social media on my phone, instagram only once a week, work from a standing desk, walk around the neighborhood several times a week, spend more time outside overall, things like that. But, like many of you, once our current pandemic, and subsequent mandated quarantines, when into effect, it was like my screen time skyrocketed. For me, it wasn’t out of escapism, it was to deep-dive and learn everything I could about coronavirus, to keep up with the news, to stay in the loop just in case some new breaking event occurred, or scientists made a breakthrough discovery in their research for a vaccine. I suddenly found myself on my screen for much, much longer than I had since before my sabbatical last summer. Twitter went back on my phone, and I check it several times a day now, since it seems to be the most convenient way for me to keep up with the latest news.
And while I’m doing other things on my screens — I finished a book proposal, we’re having more family movie nights, and of course, I now teach weekly Zoom classes and have several Zoom meetings per week — it’s the news on the screen that affects me the most. If I don’t watch out, I can start mindlessly scrolling my feed, as though if I stop for one minute I’ll miss something new. And being a good citizen means staying up to date at all times, right? …Well, it’s easy for me to justify my behavior with that idea, but it’s just not true, and I know that. You probably know that, too, but it’s hard to stop when we’re in the thick of it. Refresh, refresh, refresh, scroll, scroll, scroll… What’s the latest information with coronavirus, who’s the next well-known person to be diagnosed with COVID-19, what’s our country’s plan to flatten the curve, how to best quarantine — is there anything new I need to know for my family? — and most of all, what’s the latest science with eradicating the virus?
Y’all, we don’t need to know constant, up-to-the-minute information with all this. Yes, we need to stay informed, not bury our heads in the sand, and definitely push back on the latest conspiracy theories. But we don’t need to know every bit of information about this pandemic the second it’s released. It’s not good for our brains, our anxiety, our well-beings, our sleep, even our spirits and souls, to have every sliver of information there could possibly be out there. So this Good List episode is to remind you and me to claim a news-free day every week. Yep, an entire day.
Last Sunday was my first one since our quarantine, and it was JUST the thing I needed. I spent almost the entire day outside in our backyard, working on our spring garden, and I purposely stayed off social media. I didn’t know the latest about anything. I figured if something breaking happened, I’d find out the next day, and if it was an emergency, somehow I’d find out from a friend or family member I text with regularly. I’d be fine not knowing right away. It was such a great day that I vowed to do this weekly, so long as we’re in quarantine, and most likely afterward, too, since I was doing that before all this started. It was like I got a little taste of the BC-me (you know, ‘before coronavirus’), the person who remembered to think about things besides the news around me.
I’m hoping establishing this weekly mandate in my life will help me sleep better, read with more focus, and generally be in a better mood. I’ve been okay (in fact, I’m honestly doing quite well with quarantining; personally, it’s been nice to have this much at-home time), but I haven’t been sleeping great, I feel like my mind easily wanders, and by the end of the week of news, I find my mood a little agitated. In all this, we need to remember that being a good neighbor, good citizen, good human being means staying in the know, but not necessarily about everything right away — definitely not to the detriment of our health.
If you’re listening to this episode as it goes out, it’s Friday and the start of the weekend. And even more than that, it’s the start of a holiday weekend, with Easter Sunday in just a few days. Why not take advantage of that day and declare it a screen-free news day? Or maybe Saturday? Or any day, really; just schedule it so it happens. Maybe take whatever apps are most tempting for you to stay in the loop with news, or shut down your laptop all the way, or some other form of friction that makes it just a little bit harder to keep up with things. The pandemic will still, unfortunately, be happening for the foreseeable future, and we’ll still be in quarantine. Your mind, body, and soul could use a day off from the news, and mine can, too. It’ll all still be there the next day. Give yourself a break, and just enjoy yourself that day, news-free. It’ll all be okay.
If you like this podcast, and any of the other work I do, like my writing online or my books, consider becoming a paying subscriber to Books & Crannies, my Substack newsletter and community. Every Friday, I send out 5 Quick Things free, so you may already get that letter. But when you upgrade for just a few dollars per month, you get access to weekly chats with me and other like-minded folks, as well as occasional stuff I don’t share elsewhere — longer-form essays, thoughts on what I’m reading and writing, and more — like our virtual movie-watching party this next week. When you join, you’re also helping support my work, which is a vote with your dollars for a better internet, which benefits us all — and it also literally allows me to keep creating stuff, especially in our current economic craziness. Now more than ever, I’m reminded why it’s good to support small, indie businesses, and that includes your favorite creators, so that we don’t have to depend on advertising that suddenly vanishes when businesses pull their sponsorships. To join, simply head to 5quickthings.email and sign up for free, then click the Subscribe button to upgrade. Or if you already get my free weekly letter, click that Subscribe button in my latest email to you. And thanks so much in advance — it really makes a major difference.
I’m on twitter @tsh and sometimes on IG @tshoxenreider, and you can also find a transcript and the show notes of this episode, and all episodes, at thegoodlistshow.com.
And don’t forget to leave me a voicemail or send me a voice recording, telling me one thing you’re doing to stay sane during your quarantine and social distancing. Let’s encourage each other with good stuff, because there’s still lots of goodness out there — leave me a voicemail at (401) 684-GOOD, which goes directly to voicemail; or, simply record your voice and email the voice file to firstname.lastname@example.org. Just state your name and where you’re from, and what’s one thing helping you get through this right now. And we may feature it here on the show.
Music for the show is by Kevin MacLeod, and thanks, as always, to Caroline TeSelle and Kyle Oxenreider for their help, as well as my furry intern, Ginny. I’m Tsh Oxenreider, and I’ll be back soon — thanks for listening to The Good List.