Absorbing the poison: Is it time to tune out?

Absorbing the poison: Is it time to tune out?

If you work in media, is a self-imposed media blackout ever a good idea? How can you possibly stay abreast of proceedings, if you deliberately tune out? Or is knowing what’s going on increasingly detrimental to your mental health?

Do you really need to read the Economist and listen to the news? After all, if the most powerful man in the world thinks Paris is in Germany and Belgium is a beautiful city, and believes flying water tankers can put out fires, is it really so bad if you disconnect the wifi, barricade yourself inside the garden shed and nail the door shut from the inside? Asking for a friend.

Actually, I’m asking for all of us. Everyone who is exhausted from the daily onslaught of awful which reaches us via our newsfeeds, radios, tellies, pages, apps.

The endless hell loop. The only way to make it stop, it seems, is to literally disconnect. To hit the off button. To opt out, until the shitstorm has cleared - which may be never. Sorry to be so bleak. In fact, you should probably stop reading this right now.

A message pings through from a WhatsApp group: “I’m so miserable I could cry. Anyone want to move to New Zealand?” (It’s actually much swearier than that, but authentic reproduction would result in a distracting blizzard of asterisks). Amid a flurry of u-ok-huns, it transpires the sender is not miserable because her cat died or husband ran off with their joint account, but because she has been soaking up the news –Boris, Brexit, backstop – on her phone on the bus to work. Absorbing the poison.

Things have become so insane that UK satirists like Jonathan Pie have little left to satirise.

Which is how I, whose job involves being vaguely aware of what’s happening in the world, find myself advising my friend, whose job is not dissimilar, to throw her phone out the bus window.

To stop reading newspapers, to tune the radio to music stations with no talking, to avoid social media where everyone is either enraged or deranged or both. Stop watching the news, stop scrolling through Twitter, stop following mad people. Are these acts of cowardice or self preservation?

I used to pity people who didn’t keep up with current affairs. Now I admire them. What’s the point of filling your head with raging filth perpetrated by privileged sociopaths when you could be out watering your carrots?

That’s not a euphemism, by the way. Watering carrots is one of the most soothing things you can do, aside from morphine, and carrots have more fibre. Or walking in nature, phoneless, marvelling at the blackberries, maybe having a little fantasy about making blackberry jam.

Yesterday I made almond milk, using a blender and a pair of tights - it took ages. Psychologists would probably call this displacement activity. I’d call it sanity preservation, along with sticking my fingers in my ears, and screaming la-la-la.

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