Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Is All That News Really Bad for You?

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.

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...


Jackie Blue said...

I hear ya, Simon. A dear family friend died unexpectedly in the lead-up to Memorial Day weekend, and so I didn't even have the time or energy to check in on the news cycle, because I was mourning with and consoling family. Really puts things into perspective.

The funeral was yesterday, but to sort of numb out the day before, TNT cable network (Ted Turner channel, which I'm not sure is on the lineup in Canada?) was airing a Star Wars marathon for Memorial Day proper, so I spent some time watching that. The weather was too overcast and soggy for a cookout, and nobody had the energy to bother because we were all saddened and needed to just hunker down for awhile.

Trump, Ford, Scheer, Harper, Levant, Sessions, Roseanne, et. al., just exacerbate whatever sorrows people are already going through, which I'm sure is their sole purpose for existence: attention-seeking sadists who get their jollies off making people upset, angry and sick. You don't want to get passive and give up in the face of the Dark Side, but life's too short to get riled up over every little thing. You don't want to... "let the hate flow through you."

It's going to be a long, hot summer, that's for sure, and I think we all need a vacation from this crap. Timothy Leary's L.S.D. adventures notwithstanding, sometimes it's very helpful and indeed necessary to — as a 21st-century paraphrase of his famous saying might go — turn off, tone down and... log out.

Anonymous said...

I am definitely guilty of spending too much time on the internet and reading the news. I totally believe that it can cause depression and stress. Internet addiction really is a thing - the fear of missing out and not knowing what's going on.

Anyhow I will try to stay offline for a whole day sometime this week and see how it turns out. Peace!

Riley's sister said...

I wonder if this is what has happened to some of our progressive bloggers. I can no longer even read the headings on their latest publications without cringing. Three cheers for yours and "Things are good"

Marmalade said...

I agree! Listening to mindless chatter daily is Not Good.

Simon said...

Hi Jackie...I think Trump has exhausted a lot of people in North America. He's out of his mind and just trying to keep up with him can be difficult and depressing. And then as you point out, we have our own cast of villains in Canada. I could never have imagined that an oaf like Doug Ford might actually end up as Premier. It's like some gorilla escaped from the zoo and declared himself to be the King of Canada. But luckily it is almost summer, and it does have healing powers. And I will take some time off, both here and later in Scotland. And up in the highlands, at least in the places I frequent, if you mention the word Trump they give you a strange look, and move away from you as fast as they can. It used to bother me, I thought it was very rude, but now I just call it sanity... ;)

Simon said...

hi anon@1:20 PM...the reason I decided to run this article was because I just read a study looking at the rising levels of teenage depression. And although many teenagers have always been moody, the study notes a sharp increase in psychological problems that just happen to coincide with the arrival of cell phones. And we all know how nowadays many teenagers and older people are totally addicted to their mobiles. I don't think one should give them up, but I think we definitely need to be aware of the dangers, and take time off now and then....

Simon said...

hi Riley's sister... I know what you mean. Many of the bloggers on Progressive Bloggers have become so dark and depressing they are almost impossible to read. And worse it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between Progressive Bloggers and the Blogging Tories. Like everyone I'm sometimes moody, but I try to keep it to myself, and reflect my optimism in the future. For if we lose hope, then we will be truly doomed...

lagatta à montréal said...

Trump actually wished people a "Happy Memorial Day"....

No Memorial Day here; Remembrance Day commemorates both fallen and surviving veterans (including those who died later on of unrelated causes), and for many, all victims of war. And it is in suitably gloomy November.

lagatta à montréal said...

Dangerous in other ways. The ubiquity of motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians and SKATEBOARDERS texting and staring at their mobile phones while moving about on crowded city streets. So many pedestrians cross streets without looking either way, let alone both as we were taught as children.

The skateboarder in front of me was weaving like a drunk. I had no reason to think he had ingested any substance, it was just that he was ... elsewhere.

I loved the video. Nervy little tuxie cat. Sweet dog.