Turn off the ☠@%# New$

I remember the moment when I decided to turn off the news. I was in my car, listening to the radio, running errands with my kids strapped into their little car seats in the back. The station was live broadcasting a press conference with a political figure I despised. There was almost nothing he ever did that I agreed with. He was, in my opinion, ruining the whole world by being who he was and doing what he did to our country, our environment, our economy, everything I cared about. I needed to keep an eye on him. I needed to know what he was up to so I could push back and stop him. So I listened and read the news as a responsible citizen should. As Mad-Eye Moody would say, “Constant Vigilance”.

This politico on the radio had the gall to say something that was snarky, witty, charming even, and I laughed. I laughed at his good joke. Damn it!

Well, that was it. I was mad at myself for falling for his trap. He was destroying everything and ruining so many lives and I was actually laughing at his jokes. How could I? And then, just at that moment, my sweet, innocent kindergartener asked me a question from the back seat. I can’t even remember what it was, something simple I’m sure. Maybe she even asked me why I was laughing… And what did I do? Well, I was mad at the news so I yelled at her. Not a big horrible yell, just a normal, mom kinda yell.

And it struck me hard right then and there. This politician wasn’t ruining our lives. I was ruining my own life and messing with the lives of my children. How? I was frustrated and angered by the bad news that was being delivered in a constant stream from every corner of the planet right to my car, my computer, my door, and into my head and my heart. And me, I was dragging the weight of my reaction of worry and concern and horror into every relationship and encounter I had with all the people in my daily life. I was drinking poison and then spreading it across the lives of my children, my husband, my colleagues. Why?

Mother Teresa said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

I’m not saying we should hide our heads in the sand. I’m not saying don’t get involved. What I am saying is that we need to step back and use our intellect to decide what we choose to consume. The news is incessantly available. That doesn’t mean we have to consume it. It doesn’t even mean that it is actually important. News is a business for making money. It is marketed to us. We all know the phrase, “If it bleeds it leads.” Well, why is that?

As for watching or listening to the news with our children, well, that isn’t a great idea either. “Media-related fears can have lasting effects on children,” said a study on the effects of news on children ages 8-12 by Juliette Van Molen, PhD, and Brad Bushman PhD. Their study proved that “intensely violent news stories, such as the news about terrorist attacks, could induce persisting fears, sleep disturbances, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Why would we bring that horror to our children? Because it is the “real world”? There is plenty of the real world out there, and I promise it doesn’t all come via the news. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter. Go plant a community garden that feeds the hungry. What is more real than dirt and hunger? You get the picture. We can teach our kids to meaningfully engage with their community. That’s how we change the world. Together.

Instead of being a gawker at the sorrows of the world, let’s turn all that energy toward the things that we care about most. Is it our work, our art, our family, our community, our environment? We can give money to a favorite charity, support environmental policy, help refugees, save endangered species all around the globe. We can spread our first-world wealth across the planet through Kiva. We can organize our people around the causes we care about the most. We don’t really need the news tell us what that is.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

My friends, your suffering for other people doesn’t lessen their suffering. Your positive expression of yourself changes the world. Don’t let that love of yours bleed out of you and steal your goodness through worry and despair about things you can’t change. That helps no one. Turn off the damn news and get to it.

“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” – Albert Einstein

What do you think about news and family? Does it affect your relationships?

P.S. I’m still a fan of NPR. But I am careful with how much I listen and when.

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Turn off the ☠@%# New$

  1. I know April. She hardly practises #ostrichpolitics. Actually, she is very engaged in her local community and politics and works tirelessly to promote the causes she feels passionately about. She has thought-provoking conversations and does not shy away from dissent. The kind of mom that I think sets an example for her kids by NOT sitting around complaining, but actually participating.

    I agree wholeheartedly with April that we have to be very careful about the news and media that we feed our heads. More than ever it is about marketing from two extreme sides of the same coin. There is a real phenomenon called online mood contagion, and the hysteria created around the latest “bleeding headline” is non-productive and harmful. Working steadily to promote peace and justice, working locally to make a difference in your own family and community is where we can have our biggest impact.

    I too, have been pulling away from the constant blather being forced upon the American public as a means to promote one agenda over another, and taking more time to read, investigate and participate locally. It is more fulfilling and much more productive.

    Unfriending someone on Facebook due to a dissenting viewpoint is a great way to create an echo chamber so that you are surrounded only by people who agree with you, who are just like you, who vote just like you. And to me, that is a very dangerous way to live.

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  2. April!!! Kudos to you for having the guts to think for yourself on this one. I TOTALLY AGREE! We must take in the news from the sources we trust, and at times when we can digest it. twice a day maybe? Once? Reading some more in depth articles from a variety of sources can help us stay informed and allow us to think for ourselves. The constancy of the news in our day and age is damaging. I also don’t think that opting out of news in the car or at the dinner table with our families is opting out of involvement. don’t let naysayers get you down on this one. You are doing what so many of us are doing. Pulling away. Getting a firm hold on what we hold dear. For youngsters, why is it a crime to offer them a few years in their early lives free of the noise of the constant news? Because I know you. And I know those same kids were following you around to political activities and charitable things. They know how to change the world. Thank you for your writing. for your work and for the spreading of delight in this world. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A colleague shared your reflection on Facebook. I just unfriended him because of it. What an astounding display of bourgeois white privilege. What the world needs is critically engaged citizens during a time of massive national and international crises. And when it comes time for collective decision-making in the voting booth, we will find people like you either absent or making in informed decisions that could negatively impact and everybody else outside of your limited “community.”

    What’s more, I have to teach students who are victims of what you propose. Middle- and upper middle-class white students completely mystified ans confounded about the world in which they live because they were raised by parents who shelter them from any meaningful participation and civil society, denying them any information about anything that might hurt their feelings.

    The result is that they are maladjusted, disillusioned, and unable to adjust and thrive in a world that is, indeed, filled with complexity and difficulty. Fragile, lacking resiliency, too many youth raised in the manner you are raising your daughters do not benefit in the end. And our delicate democracy in America is worse off because of it. #OstrichPolitics

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    • Well, I knew I would get this response Abdel, so I appreciate you taking it on. But I fear you only read the headline, not the whole post. I did not nor do I believe in being an #ostrich. Still, being constantly bombarded with the negativity that sells from the mainstream news isn’t really “bourgeois white privilege” is it? Honestly, isn’t that who it is coming from? What I am saying is I believe we should get a lot closer to it – meet with real people, participate in the world. That is how to raise compassionate children. Plus, I think teenagers should fully participate in meaningful news. Mine do.

      And I stand by my statement that ” your suffering for other people doesn’t lessen their suffering.” Engaging in real work actually does. Sending money to organizations who are working with those beyond your small scope really does. I didn’t say sit in your bunker! Listening to the news so that you become immune to “a bomb went off today in Bagdad” isn’t thoughtful citizenship. Nor is just being depressed about it and taking it out on your children or the college kid making your Starbucks latte. That’s my point. There is work to be done in this world, but there are lots of ways to get to it.

      And I know my kids in this picture are super white, but my family is Swedish. We are who we are and we look like we look.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Susan Zipser
      JULY 1, 2016 AT 19:46
      April,i know has worked for candidates she believes in for many years and has always been on top of today’s issues with an in depth knowledge of their causes and concerns . April is not and has never been immune to the problems of the world. She immerses herself in working for the betterment of society!!!!This is the first time I have known her to talk about how she is able to balance her Home life with her work in politics and the outside world without letting it overwhelm her. I completely agree with April we all need to step back periodically in order to get a clear vision of the world and process all the information we are bombarded with so that we can focus on what is most important and where we can do the most good. I too am very much involved in politics and will be spending this 4th of July registering people to vote. Abdel, What will you be doing for your country on the 4th of July?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I had a similar experience when I realized i was always mad by the time I got to work. I was listening to NPR on the way to work.One day i had enough of furustration and I turned the radio to a music station and began showing up at work happy after listening to some great songs.

    Liked by 2 people

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