I've decided to take a holiday from the news. I am getting depressed so I am turning off the tube, abstaining from Internet news sites, refusing to fetch my area's daily rag off the front porch, switching to all-music jazz radio, culling from my podcast account all but "A Prairie Home Companion" (the news from Lake Wobegone does not count since it is a fictional place, plus I like Garrison's voice).
The day's tragedies will need to continue without my knowing about them. Good people will be victimized, riots will happen, earthquakes will decimate another village in Italy, entire economies will collapse, a politician will pontificate about "hope and change," and I will remain intentionally oblivious.
I am taking a hiatus from my beloved "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. I will miss Anderson Cooper's 360 degrees of silver hair, smirky grin and hilarious giggle. Rachel Maddow will need to clutch her pen and look sincerely into the camera knowing that I will not be in her audience.
No more TMZ updates on which celebs are in rehab. People Magazine can talk about Jessica Simpson's struggles with baby weight gain all they want, I will not be reading.
I might even stop using Facebook as my friends' news is beginning to depress me as well. In between pics of their outings to the local pancake house and graduation announcements I have noticed a disturbing trend: the shockingly brief "bad news snippet" infiltration.
I am now seeing bad news snippets like: "Sis died today." That's it -- just 3 words with no background, no explanation. Was "Sis" your dog, your imaginary friend or your real sister? I scour the timeline looking for previous references of a lingering illness, accident or calamity that would account for "Sis's" sudden demise. Finding none, I am wracked with indecision on what emotion I should be feeling. Should I feel my friend's loss and mourn for Sis -- whom I've never met and could be a house plant for all I know? Three tiny, unexplained words and now my day sucks!
I will make a modification to my no-news stance for Open Salon. I am programming my OS search filter to seek out posts with the following upbeat key words and phrases: "I Never Had Cancer and Never Will," "Fond Recollections of My Religious Upbringing in a Cult-Like Environment," "How I Won the Lottery and So Can YOU!!", "Rainbows," "Puppies," "Kittens,""Free Beer" and (this one might be a stretch), "All SPAM Permanently Removed -- OSers Rejoice in the Streets!"
For all the news I consume, I feel I am the most uninformed person on the planet. I cannot tell you the capitals of all the countries and I cannot locate most countries on the world map if my life depended on it. I have spent so much time trying to keep "current" that more useful knowledge has been pushed out of my brain and replaced with news teasers, salacious headlines, Angry Birds and YouTube dancing babies.
So now I've made a resolution. I am unplugging from the news world and reconnecting with me. I am going to finish reading my tattered copy of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged because I really do want to find out who John Galt was. I'm going to dust off my almanac and learn about the shape and composition of our planet's land masses, oceans and rivers. To stave off my news overload anxiety, I am going to learn about and listen to more jazz and blues, which I believe is the music of the soul I am trying to reconnect with.
And at some point when I return to the news-generating world, I hope to be a more discerning consumer. I envision myself on a trimmed-down news diet. I will allow myself a few small treats each day, but will refuse the temptation to gorge myself on the 24/7 news and update buffet. Before consuming, I will judge news on its potential impact to my brain and my psychological well-being. I will search out news sources that keep me alert and informed and pose questions that don't have easy answers. When I push my chair away from my desk, my aim is to be invigorated and engaged, not woozy and bloated.
Wish me luck. I'll let you know how my experiment works out.