No news is good news at PumpjackPiddlewick

I was sat on the ground weeding yesterday, contemplating. Is there a direct correlation between no news and happiness?

You see, I don’t watch, listen or read the news. (And by ‘news’ I mean main stream media news.) Why? Let me back up a bit and tell a story.

A good portion of my adult life was spent travelling the world, most often in very isolated places. In consequence the only access I had to news was through a short wave radio. My go to station was the BBC World Service. I loved it. And then, I really, really didn’t.

It was only a single hours worth of broadcast time per day in many countries. So it felt like a lifeline to the rest of the world.

Yet, with only this form of news, it quickly became apparent, that according to the BBC the world was in dire straights and had no where to go but down. There was only sad, horrible, horrific stories, with the odd 1% of let’s finally smile moments.

When you find yourself isolated from the world, this is not the best sort of material to be listening to. So I stopped listening.

Do you remember the days before the internet? When news, and well, all else, was ‘limited’ to the TV, radio or newspapers? I am not harking back to ‘the good ol’ days’. I love the internet. I get to do what I do because of it. But what it does offer is the opposite of my days with only a short wave radio, too much news. And again, it is 99% bad.

Now I like my rosy coloured glasses just fine, and personally feel the world is a pretty terrific place on the whole. That people are generally friendly, nice, helpful. That there is beauty all around us, especially if we take the time to look. Of course there are exceptions to everything, but in my world I’ll take the 90% good over the 10% bad. And when the good outweighs the bad, the bad is easier to deal with.

Long ago, after giving up on the world service, I gave up on the news. I do not read, listen or watch it. And you would be surprised how up to date you still can be.

What I will call ‘real news’, news worth knowing about in that it truly impacts on lives, whether of myself or others, gets through. My partner mentions it, friends or family say something, in some way it makes itself known. And it is not something that takes time to create awareness.

In example, the Japanese Tsunami, I knew about it within a few hours of it happening. And yet, I did not read, listen or watch any news. This was even true when I was travelling, though in that case sometimes it took longer than a few hours.

Once something made itself known, if I wanted to know more, then I would check various media sources for further information. But always it was an addendum, to have an understanding of the facts. And then, I stopped again.

Even in today’s current situation I have done this. The pandemic crossed my radar in January. I knew it was getting closer by February. I even knew about ‘lockdown’ here in France on the day it happened. All without accessing any news. Then I accessed the information on what lockdown actually required.

Through it all my spirits have stayed lifted, with only two dips; the death of our young Pi and finding out we were classified as the red zone, eg the more infected area of France. But if good out weighs bad, then coping, particularly in isolation, becomes easier.

Feeling sceptical? Try it. Don’t access the news for a week and see if you don’t still feel up to speed with the world. And see if you don’t feel happier. I would be curious to know. Because I do think there is a correlation between too much news and unhappiness. Or if not unhappiness then not happy, cynical, feeling down. And in these days of self isolation, it may be a very important thing to know.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Alycea,
    Like you I’m lucky enough to need to have lots of weeding and upkeep on three acres to do a part of the year and classes and lessons to keep up with the rest of the time – even more so adapting to Zoom and numerous programs that accompany webinar courses when they have to be integrated into collective teaching and you know that it will continue just when you thought you were going to finally retire at age 77.

    I tend to wonder what you refer to here as “news” and how we distinguish it from “opinion”. I don’t remember where I read (Kundera?) there are three levels in learning: information, knowledge and wisdom and each take place at different paces.

    Information from different sources has brought me enough knowledge to have grasp that wisdom remains telling friends who usually come to stay in summer that I’m not receiving anyone and this will probably include family from California. Relationships with others are more than limited – minimal shopping and any other unnecessary contacts avoided not only because of chronic bronchitis, but also because of the effects the virus leaves on internal organs,

    I don’t know if “news” includes listening to interviews with virologists? Of course if we avoid listening to all media we avoid the errors of “opinion” which also supposes that we cut off all other eventual sources of opinion including that of exchange with neighbours or friends since their knowledge is also filtered through personal experience.

    Just as you’ve come to understand that we can learn a lot about human nature by closely observing animal nature, isn’t life always a series of choices, those “forks in the path” that Robert Frost refers to where we can always come back, but rarely do?

    It’s true that one error of “news broadcasts” has always been their error of wanting to be there before the others and often jumping to conclusions only to “correct” their errors over and again. Of course all media is a form of “business”, and one of the easiest ways of catching people’s attention is to give them content they can identify with. It’s obvious that if it weren’t for Google’s algorithms YouTube would be sending me rap music and how to choose your sparkling nail polish.

    But then again isn’t life all about learning to open doors and windows onto the outside world given the context of both emotion and intelligence? One thing the pandemic has taught us, if there are ways and means of trusting both our own judgement and that of others, like all other animals, survival instinct is something nature doesn’t forget.

  2. Hi Barbara
    By ‘news’ (and I have now updated the post to reflect this) I mean mainstream media news – like watching CBS news or listening to the BBC news or reading newspapers for the latest ‘what’s happening in the world’ news.

    I would distinguish opinion as personal, ergo it is my thinking and therefore opinion that not specifically watching, etc the ‘news’ that I am happier for it. Where as news is defined to be a telling of current events.

    We’re in agreement that multiple sources will give a rounder view. But I would also hope that each person can decide for themselves how much information they need to accumulate, especially as it pertains to their own situation and mental health. And then turn it off, if only for awhile.

    In these days of internet especially, the option to learn more, through various mediums, is a true wonder. My garden would certainly not be growing so well if I didn’t have access.

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