I do not think humans are adequately evolved to process the emotional fatigue of social media and a constant 24 x 7 news cycle. In the wake of the latest mass shooting in this country in Las Vegas which occurred yesterday, I am mindfully listening to some news sources, but I am very consciously limiting my consumption to small doses. I choose to turn off my social media notifications rather than constantly getting drawn in . I have done this since last November post-election, because I realized that while I believe staying informed is a good idea, it can be exhausting and unproductive to be hyper-connected. I no longer check facebook every day, and I am grateful not to be as distracted, or pulled away from things that are more important to me.
With news of hurricanes, earthquakes, mass shootings, political nonsense and your average day in which we lose some beloved performer or actor, it can seem like bad news dominates. But this is not true. It is one reason I no longer watch television news – “if it bleeds, it leads” is one of the guidelines for local headline news. By coming up with an attention-grabbing headline, news outlets can exploit our negativity bias, our brain’s default toward those things that may be dangerous or fear-provoking. I will say more in a future post about the biological basis for this phenomenon, but for now, it is good to just be aware of it.
When we realize that we cannot change anything by constantly worrying and ruminating about these terrible events, maybe we can take a step back, breathe and acknowledge that some time way from the incoming flood of news is okay. It is necessary and it is healthy to stay present in this moment and to perhaps take a moment to be grateful for our relative safety, for some small joy in our day that can help put things into perspective. Undoubtedly we will all face some speculation about recent events, and I expect I will do the same.
But I am turning toward the positive events, people, and qualities in my life so that I can keep some steady ground beneath me as I consider how to interpret and decide how or whether to factor these events into my life. It is difficult but necessary to do this, and I know my meditation practice has helped. By letting go of what we cannot control, we focus on what we can do. I am not saying to ignore what is happening in the world, by any means. I am just asking you consider if stepping back may help you gain some valuable emotional distance to be able to consider what possible actions will serve you and your loved ones best in the present and the future.