Saturday, April 28, 2018

Pulling the Plug on Informaton Overload

Remember when some guy came on TV at 5:30, read about the events that happened that day and then went away until 24 hours later? If you are under 40 you might not because you have grown up with a 24-hour news cycle. Live shots from places where things "might happen any minute," and updates about the most trivial information that isn't always thoroughly fact-checked the way it used to be when reporters had the whole day to make sure they were getting it right.

The result of this can be that we end up living in a state of emotional distress for days on end which is detrimental to our health.

How to know when it's a problem:

Watching and discussing nonstop.

Feeling depressed or hopeless.

Eating or drinking in excess,

Finding it hard to concentrate.

Being unable to turn it off or feeling out of control.

 I know that some people will think that following my advice means sticking your head in the sand, or someplace worse.  Choosing not to internalize what's happening doesn't mean you are uninformed or unthinking. It means that you are thinking rationally about what you have control over (your thoughts, actions, and words) and what you don't (the thoughts, actions, and words of others). How is harming your health going to improve anything?

Here's what to do when you've had enough.

1. Turn it all off. The TV. Social media. Your phone. Unplug and disconnect. The whole thing will not collapse while you aren't paying attention.

2. Stop commenting on everything.  Don't waste your time arguing with people on Twitter or Facebook. Studies show that practically no one changes their mind due to someone's Facebook posts. Stop spinning your wheels and keeping yourself wound up. You aren't being part of the solution and you are negatively affecting your health unless you are actually involved.

3.  If you are addicted to all the information options you might want to download an app to help you keep track of how many times you are checking your phone or how much time you spend on social media. There are even apps to lock you out of certain sites during certain hours. Here's an article with links to several options for taming your info-addiction. 

4. Read your news instead of watching it. One problem with video is that you are going to be exposed to it over and over. If you are getting your news from Youtube or Facebook Live you can see every single person's personal version of events. You'll never get to the end of all that. At some point, you just have to stop. Once you have seen the footage of an event don't keep watching it.

5. Distract yourself with something positive that gives you a feeling of control, self-awareness, and contribution. For me that's usually gardening. Read here to find out about the scientific reason gardening makes you happy.  There is something supremely calming about being outside.

6. Don't read the comments. Unless you have a blog where people are kind enough to leave remarks.  Something happens to people in the comments section of a video or article. They lose their manners. They lose their minds. Facebook and Twitter are the worst.

I know it's hard to find the right balance but experiment to find the level of informed for you. And ask yourself, if you didn't know anything about what was happening would it actually make any difference?

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