I Quit News for 30 Days and This Is What Happened

Though summer had a joyful start, it was shockingly interrupted by the deaths of two family members (same day, different circumstances). The unusually inspiring Democratic National Convention and Summer Olympics were a much-needed distraction. But by the end of August, I was tapped. Personal bad news plus general bad news plus the 2016 presidential election made for a bad cocktail. And so, I decided to take a break from the news. A colleague started his own fast earlier that month. So, I was encouraged that others felt like me and this undertaking was actually possible.

Within the first few days, I realized how challenging it would be. First, Twitter was a streaming treasure trove of real-time news. I decided that to truly quit news, I had to quit Twitter as well. So, my challenge became two-fold – abstain from the news and the only form of social media where I had an active presence. Ouch, but ok. I remained steadfast and tried my best to avoid both at any cost.

More and more hiccups surfaced as the month wore on. My husband and mother were much aggrieved that their favorite news buddy was no longer available to commiserate. Over time, the question of “what is news?” became a constant nag. I decided that live events, such as the opening ceremony for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, were not news, but punditry about them later was. Think pieces or informational articles were ok, unless of course, they referenced current events. Needless to say, things got dicey.

Despite the many challenges, I made it through. Some commended my efforts while others thought them absolute madness—yet another paradox. And here’s one more: is it better or worse to be unaware of the world around you? Seems like an easy answer, but for me, the ignorant bliss of that month clouds my perspective. I felt less anxious and less worried. Cutting off news felt as if I unloaded the weight of the world’s problems. No more tears over bombings in Syria. No more worry about North Korea’s nuclear armament. No more anger about police killings. Life was more peaceful, leaving my mind to focus on other things.

Now unfortunately, this election cycle was like a punch in the face after a deep and restorative sleep. But perhaps, my 30-day fast better prepared me for the news ahead.