Taking a Break

One thing about living in Florida is how easy it is to fall victim to the sensationalism of hurricane reporting by local television stations. We crave wanting to know where Anna, Bill, Claudette and any of our other alphabetical list of storms is headed. It is nearly impossible to escape this invasion of news as the ticker or radar picture instantly showing location, intensity, and projected path of destruction is always on once the storm has been announced. This information invades our lives through print, computers, radio, television, and even local conversation.

I would argue that our lives in general have become much the same way regarding all news. In ancient times (before the 1980s), there were three networks, a public TV station, and changing channels necessitated getting off the couch so our exposure to the news was much more limited. Sure, an AM radio station typically played hourly updates, but our news was only available in the morning, at noon, or on the major networks in the evening. Paul Harvey was the extent of opinion and we recognized him as an entertainer. At night, Johnny Carson poked fun at events of the day, but the monologue was respectful and limited. Now, even local television stations now run two hours of “news” in the evening. Ironically, most of the news is not news though, but polling data reports, conjecture, and opinions.

You’re reading this paper, this page of the paper, and this article. Most likely, like me you enjoy the news and keeping up with information. Recently I realized though, like hurricane news, the political and economic information I enjoy is changing at a slower pace than I desire. I found myself wanting more, craving more and starving for the latest news tidbit to radically change the political landscape. Each day I regularly visit web sites to read newspapers and review news sources. Fortunately, I cancelled cable television over a year ago and am no longer bombarded by the pontificates on different networks sharing their opinions, not reporting news.

Recently, I realized I was feeling a level of anxiety. Nothing bad, nothing in particular caused me anxiety. But instead, like the ongoing threat of a hurricane offshore that will more than likely miss central Florida, I felt the same anxiety watching the news and waiting, anticipating, and starving for the next story detailing some miniscule change in the health care debate or the current economic environment. Thus, I decided to take a break.

This past Sunday I told my wife that my goal for the week was to avoid the “news”. No web sites, no talk radio, no seeking of information that I had no control over and could not impact. However, out of fairness, if I encountered news I would absorb it. So far my experience has been refreshing, like a vacation. I realized I could break my addiction and habit to seeking and looking for news. The next time a hurricane is coming I suggest you try it. A once a day check of conditions is more than adequate. The same holds true for most your exposure to talk radio, cable news, or evening network news. Once a day, read the paper or watch the news. Minute by minute; remember you are subjecting yourself to opinion and conjecture. It’s not worth your time.

Copyright (c) 2009 John R. Nelson. All Rights Reserved.