I grew up in a house where the local nightly news was a family event. We were not an educated family. Both my mother and father were dropouts. But we watched the news. Journalism, at least the kind produced and televised, was important.
With 24-hour news, talking heads became somewhat of a fixture on our TV. When there wasn’t a Western or a Braves game, my father was parked in front of someone reading headlines off a teleprompter. The only time that changed was when the OJ Simpson trial happened. Then his news anchors were replaced with courtroom cameras and hours of legal drama.
The constant news cycle watered my young growing life. As I aged, the watering became a downpour. As I entered college in a post-9-11 world, I was addicted to staying up to date. As much as I could, I was checking CNN and MSNBC. I peppered my FOX News with Al Jazeera. I had to learn the hard way that not all sources were good sources. In a world before “fake news” I was naïve about the differences between propaganda, opinion, and loose facts.
I spent hours digging to stay connected, stay “woke”, stay in the know. And while attempting to balance that with what was becoming a domestic life with a husband and children, it was burning me out. Those habits lessened a little out of sheer necessity. You can’t spend that much time in the corners of the internet when you’re changing diapers and kissing boo-boos. But somehow, thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, being in the middle of a news tornado still becomes a common occurrence.
And it drove me crazy.
I installed apps and signed up for all the notifications. I refreshed pages nonstop. I followed all the in the know people and read all the tweets worth reading. I got good at finding rabbit holes and following them, connecting dots like they would save my life. Everything felt so damn important. But really, more often than not, everything was just so damn heartbreaking. And the more I took in, the more I needed. Other than caffeine I’ve never felt addicted to anything, but this felt like an addiction. I had to know.
While the kids were watching their cartoons, I was watching the world turn on itself. I always had to have a front-row seat to whatever horrible thing was happening. The car crash of the world kept getting bigger and I couldn’t look away.
Everyday life is stressful. Everyday life with the weight of a wounded world constantly blaring in your face is even more stressful. It wasn’t just wearing me down; it was feeding into my depression. My life, and by extension, my family’s lives, was being affected by my obsession to be “in the know”. That’s why, as an act of self-care, I had to stop. I had to dislodge myself from the funnel of the news siphon and let go of my desire to stay informed. I had to turn it off.
And part of me mourns that. It feels that I am letting so much of myself and the world down by tuning out. As a college drop out, I’m insecure anyway. As a news junkie drop out, I just feel dumb. I feel like a chicken, turning away because I am too afraid. I understand that is not the case. I know that this is not an act of me burying my head in the sand and pretending that the world’s issues don’t affect me. This is an act of taking care of myself.
This is reading a book. This is coloring with my kids. This is watching Westerns and cartoons. This is trying my hand at creating art. This is doing more than reading about the world on a screen; This is experiencing the world in front of me. Right here in my own little corner. This is not hiding; This is healing. And it is wonderful.
As much as the world needs its stories heard, it needs its people whole. Being a bruised shell of a person living off a diet of sensationalized headlines gets us nowhere. If we are just consuming the flashing images that media are putting forth without connecting to those around us, we are not doing our diligence to society. If we are not connecting to ourselves, we are not
We can not help the world if we do not help ourselves. There is no good that can be done if we are broken shells shuffling around with nothing but knowledge inside. We need a heart. We need talent. We need our creative spark. Being plugged into flashing screens and scrolling news bars all the time isn’t the way to do that.
Sometimes we need to unplug, turn off, and turn away. The 24-hour news networks, the never-ending updates, and the personalities who are making a name off all the screaming can wait. We must foster our connections with ourselves and those around us. Healing starts at home. Once we heal ourselves, we can help right the wrongs that fill the airwaves we need to take a break from.
Angela Zimmerman is an emerging author from the Southern United States. When she’s not Mama Henning, she’s usually overthinking. You can usually find her with a cooling cup of coffee on her desk as she’s trying to right or is breaking up a kid fight. Follow her wanderings at Conjure and Coffee