I ran into a friend recently who asked if I knew she had “quit” a year ago. She said she simply knew it was time and went “cold turkey.”
“Congratulations,” I said. “That’s amazing. Any withdrawal issues?”
“The FOMO (fear of missing out) was terrible,” she said. “I was restless and on edge, second-guessing my decision. Then came eating my way through stress. I gained weight, but I started sleeping better.”
Another friend confided that she has been tapering off gradually. “I don’t indulge until after 7 in the evening. Even then, I try to limit myself.”
She squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head as if reliving a bad dream.
What are they quitting? Social media. Mainstream media. Anything that glues you to a screen for hours on end, recycles the same stories at the top and bottom of the hour and ratchets up your blood pressure.
A neighbor put a total block on herself. No local news, no national news, no phone alerts, not even funny political memes in texts and emails for two weeks.
“It was refreshing,” she said. “I didn’t feel so agitated all the time or want to punch a hole in the wall. My husband said I even stopped thrashing in my sleep and yelling out, ‘Liar, liar!’ It was wonderful.”
She looked away, head down. A giant tear rolled down her cheek.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I fell off the wagon. I thought I’d just have a look. You know, just a little one. But then, one news website led to another news site— and—and —” She began sobbing gently.
“What is it?” I asked, putting my arm around her. “You can tell me.”
She wailed, shoulders heaving, nose running, tears smearing mascara.
“Oh, no. Tell me you didn’t!” I shrieked. “Did you?”
“Yes!” she wailed. “I began reading (sob) the (sob, sob) comments. WWAAAAAHHHHHH!”
Nothing can take you out faster these days than reading too far into the comments.
The issue is not whether there is bad news. There’s a bounty of it. The issue is the blaring megaphone that doesn’t just deliver the bad news, but amplifies it, intensifies it and relentlessly recycles it.
Every news story is a “breaking news” story.
Every piece of “new information,” is a “bombshell discovery.”
You find yourself worked up about crime in a small town in Iowa, but you don’t live in Iowa. You’ve never even been to Iowa.
This approach was once known as yellow journalism. It built empires.
Sensationalism keeps readers, viewers, clickers and scrollers coming back for more. Sensationalism drives traffic and traffic drives advertising rates.
Maybe it’s time to quit being driven and get in the driver’s seat.
Take some time to swap out your blue screen for a blue sky. The view will do you good. Your heart rate might even go down.
Spend face time with real friends in real life. A good friend is often a good counselor.
Break away from Twitter and find some real birds. They’re fabulous in the mornings. They might be shooting bad news back and forth, but thankfully you don’t speak bird.