I’ve had it. I was angry. I was sad. I’ve even cried over the side of my mum’s bathtub, while washing my feet.
I’ve always been rather empathetic, but recently, the news have brought this to new levels. And I decided to let go of it.
During the one year, I decided to stay in my home country, I experienced horribly right weight elections and listened to the many opinions about the sudden flood of refugees that have walked hundreds of kilometres to escape from the war in Syria.
In this time I had plenty of discussions about these topics with friends and strangers. All resulting in either of two final frustrations. Number one: My discussion partner had pretty much the same opinion as me and we just talked in circles. Number two: My discussion partner had the exact opposite opinion as me and we just talked in circles. A third option would be the discussions 5 people are involved in, where everybody brings in a little more half-truths, or gets dismissed before they can even finish their sentence and nobody can actually form an opinion.
These discussions were one of the reasons, why I felt like I should stay on top of the information out there. I have liked all the newspaper pages on facebook, as well as more independent news sources. I had started listening to radio more often again and was listening like a fox, when the news were on, on some friend’s TV.
In 2015 I said, for the very first time, Austria has made me proud – in regard to how we handled the refugee situation. Private people formed help organisations and went directly to the sites where they could support the ones looking for a life without fear of death. And, despite being flabbergasted at first, even the government reacted in a kind of human way.
Not even 6 months later, I had to take back my pride. After waiting for a European solution, the Austrian government decided to come up with a top-limit of a number of refugees, they would take in over the course of 2016. The chain-reaction, every logical thinking person already expected, followed not long after: One country after another started closing the borders completely. Well done Austria. You are trying to become unattractive and I’m disgusted. Well done.
Before the refugee ‘crisis’, I have avoided news and politics to a big extent. I have my values and I’m happy to learn new and old things.
But over the last weeks I had to realise how much the news overflow that I handed myself over to, started to get to my psyche.
I don’t understand how people can be so cruel. I don’t understand how a couple of (horrible) terror attacks could prime the people of Europe to so much hate towards the people who were running exactly from those. If anything, it should be easier to understand their reasons for coming in the first place.
Only yesterday, when I explained my thoughts to my boyfriend, I realised how important my plans for a news sabbatical were.
Why do we need to know all these horrible things? Obviously, the war, terror attacks and refugees are an important topic. But as long as I couldn’t actually do something about it (be it a lack of time or a lack of power), why did I have to know all of this?
The first answer pops to my mind immediately. It’s the chorus of my family, that I’d been listening to for years: You need to know what’s going on in the world.
And now, for the very first time, I ask myself: Why?
I don’t need to know the majority of things you see on the news. They are stressful, they make you paranoid and they don’t give me anything of value.
Don’t get me wrong. If there is something really important happening, I will hear from it. Be it through other people or the occasional headline in newsletter shops.
I’m not uninterested. If I want to know about something, I will look it up. And I look up many things. As a matter of fact, I’m currently reading a book about physics. A topic I was never interested in. I only get through it slowly, but it’s so freakin’ interesting!
The last days I’ve spent enormous amounts of time on Wikipedia, learning about historic wars, their refugees and how they changed the world. And if I do stumble upon some seemingly important headline from the present, I will look it up too.
The things that break us, are the tiny shots of unimportant news, that we get injected every day. I don’t need to see pictures of some election event of the right wing party of Austria. I know they are horrible. I don’t need to see pictures of ‘how many’ they are. Because it’s an illusion. Of course there are many inside. But there might be many more protesters in front of the event location.
These news will only scare me of a horrible future, not even one century after a similar past ended. They will not influence my voting behaviour and they will not make me change my mind about them. It is useless information. Fear-creating, useless information.
I do not need to know about the two drunk guys who blew up a car by throwing firework inside. I know there are idiots out there. I know, alcohol makes people unpredictable and I know what effect fire on gasoline has. I do not need to know this particular story. Because it only upsets me to see the car wreck.
I don’t need to see pictures of the Paris attacks or the mass raping in Cologne (still trying to wrap my head around this one…) on the news. Why? Because I hear them from friends. And then I look it up on – what I consider – reliable information sources.
A news sabbatical does not mean you don’t know what’s going on in the world. A news sabbatical means, that you know the important and well filtered things that go on in the world.
I decided to start my sabbatical, when I randomly stumbled upon this browser extension, that let’s you customise, what facebook shows you.
This way I could bring facebook back to what I actually want to use it for: Staying in touch with my friends. Since yesterday I only see my closest friend’s status updates – in chronological order. Not how facebook thinks I should see them. No groups, no pages, nothing. If I want to be notified when a particular group or page has a new post, I can change that in the notification settings of that page or group (Do that for the About Wings Facebook page :P)
Also, I had already deleted facebook from my smartphone a couple of weeks ago, in order to make place for my meditation app. It’s not only a big relieve to not be notified about every single event invitation when you are out and about, experiencing adventures, but it’s also much nicer to get your notifications all at once when you get to a computer. It simply looks nicer when you see 21, rather than one notification, when you look into facebook. The Messenger App I kept on my phone, since it fulfills this one purpose I want it for.
Being up to date about my most important friend’s lives and staying in contact with them while I’m on the road, really is the only reason why I still use facebook at all. News about anything shouldn’t be there whatsoever. Together with any filters, that destroy the chronological order of my friend’s updates, in order to keep me on the page for longer.
Another thing I started doing over the last months, is listening to the radio, when I was moving Hermes. Especially on short drives, I was too lazy to connect my phone to the cassette adapter. That was another way of getting news and annoying ads blurting into my ear. The solution to that is hopefully obvious enough.
And, since I’m currently living at my mum’s to get through the Austrian Winter, while waiting for Augusto’s return, I will simply leave the room when she turns on the TV to watch the news.
Anything the headlines of a newspaper at the shop doesn’t tell me, really is not worth my important time. And even those headlines often aren’t.
To that, I will give you the same answer, that you will get, when you ask me, how long I have planned to travel: I don’t know.
My lifestyle is all about change. If I feel it’s time for a change from change, I will settle. If I feel it’s healthy for me, to follow the news again, I will.
The future is unwritten pages of my book. And I prefer to focus on the writing.