I did something unusual last Saturday. I took a whole day off social media.
No blogging, no tweeting, no reaching into my pocket to pull out my mobile to check out what was happening in Canada or the world.
Part of the reason I did that was because it was a beautiful day, and I have vowed to make this summer my best one ever.
So instead of staring at a screen, I stared out at Toronto from one my favourite vantage points on Ward's Island.
I soaked up some rays on this beach.
Or just cycled slowly through the quiet leafy lanes of the island where cars are not allowed.
Checking out how the island is recovering from last summer's catastrophic flooding.
But the main reason I disconnected myself from social media last Saturday was because I wanted to find out whether I could live for a day without my daily dose of bad news.
Especially since some are now saying that all that bad news is bad for you, and giving it up will make you happier.
In the past few decades, the fortunate among us have recognised the hazards of living with an overabundance of food (obesity, diabetes) and have started to change our diets. But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body.
Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be.
Thanks to the epidemic of so-called fake news we know that news can be misleading, irrelevant, or just trivial. The time I spend looking at cute animal videos is totally scary.
But did you know that it can apparently also poison your body?
Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitisation.
Did you know that it can affect your memory, or your ability to absorb information, or make you dangerously passive?
News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. The daily repetition of news about things we can't act upon makes us passive. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised, sarcastic and fatalistic.
Or worse kill your creativity.
I don't know a single truly creative mind who is a news junkie – not a writer, not a composer, mathematician, physician, scientist, musician, designer, architect or painter. On the other hand, I know a bunch of viciously uncreative minds who consume news like drugs. If you want to come up with old solutions, read news. If you are looking for new solutions, don't.
I have to admit that I didn't know all that, and that by the time I finished reading that article I was practically in a state of shock, because I was sure I had suffered from ALL the above symptoms at one time or another.
And to make matters worse I don't think I can help myself, for by the time midnight arrived and the experiment was over, I was practically screaming for stimulation.
And I didn't feel like myself again until I had checked out the news, and watched this video over and over again.
worth watching for the end pic.twitter.com/15yc2QBpHL— hiba (@iatemuggles) May 25, 2018
Before sharing it widely with my family and friends in Canada and Scotland.
And besides, while I realize you can read or watch too much news, I also firmly believe that many people don't absorb enough information.
And as a result are so dumb they are quite capable of voting for someone like Doug Ford...
After believing everything he told them.
Still, I'm sure one can find a happy medium and make sure to take at least some time off from social media at least once a week.
Leave the mobile at home, feel the sun and the wind in your face...
For one thing is also true,
Life is an amazing journey, but as people keep telling me.
It's over before you know it...