The first thing I do every morning is reach for my phone and look at the news. The major newspaper sites and the ABC mostly. I digest what’s happened over night while I drink a cup of tea and then I go exercise while listening to more news on ABC radio.
I inhale the news all day every day. I always have.
Until a couple of months ago when I stopped.
I’m not sure what made me turn away but the compulsion to do so was so deeply embedded in me that I couldn’t help it.
It’s been a year of bad news – is there any other kind when you’re talking about professional news organisations? Good news is so much harder to sell. “If it bleeds, it leads” goes the newsroom cliché.
And this year there has been a river of blood, real and figurative. From the brutal firing squad executions of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the inquest into the Lindt Café siege, the deliberate crashing of the Germanwings jet, the lifeless body of a 3 year old refugee washed up on a beach, the Paris terrorist attacks, the ISIS beheadings, the daily scourge of domestic violence, the incomprehensible murder of Tara Brown by her partner as she lay injured in her car, the stabbing murder of Masa Vukotic by a deranged stranger as she jogged in a suburban park and on and on and on and on. Click, watch, read, listen, recoil, digest, trauma. Repeat.
The news cycle has been one of horror this year and perhaps I reached saturation point. Perhaps you did too because I’ve heard the same sentiment from many people. Many of us are turning away from the news.
It hasn’t just been the blood and the tragedy. It’s been the fear-mongering, the outrage, the emotional manipulation by politicians like Tony Abbott and Donald Trump who have appealed to the ugliest underbelly of societal attitudes towards minorities in a bid to make it seem like they are the only ones who can protect us. Tony Abbott talking about ‘death cults coming’ to get us and demonising refugees. Donald Trump demonising everyone who isn’t a rich, middle-aged white man.
As some stage, I decided to turn away from that and towards something else. Towards nuance and positivity and optimism. Towards Malcolm Turnbull who shocked everyone out of our defensive crouch by announcing that there’s never been a more exciting time to be alive or to be an Australian.
Listen to Mia talking with Jamila Rizvi and Monique Bowley discuss News in 2015:
This year I’ve found myself rejecting the anger and outrage contagion of Twitter and of granular daily news coverage and seeking out more balanced opinions and more irreverence and humour. I want to laugh. I want to learn too but that doesn’t mean I want to marinate in all the gory details of every tragedy, every stabbing, every murder, every hideous crime. Once, I used to think that would help me process it. Like after 9/11 when we all sat in front of the TV and pored over the newspaper for days and days, watching the planes smash into the Twin Towers, reading about the last moments of the victims. It did help in a way but it was also deeply traumatising. And did it help really? I’m still not sure.
Regardless, the news has changed so much since 2001. There is so much more information available now via social media. The tweets, the Facebook and Instagram posts, the endless supply of commentary and analysis. It’s overwhelming and ultimately I don’t know if it’s making it easier or harder to process the daily, hourly, minute-by-minute bad news happening all over the world.
When the Paris attacks happened a few weeks ago, I was struck by the speed of not just the news cycle but the processing cycle. It was almost routine.
The news broke on Saturday morning. Within hours there were hashtags promoting peace. By Saturday night, monuments were changing colour around the world. On Sunday morning Facebook gave us the opportunity to change our avatars to the French flag “for a week”, by Sunday afternoon there were videos and hashtags about not blaming the Muslim community and by Monday it almost felt like we were done.
Carrie Bickmore talks about domestic violence and the murder of Tara Brown.
Until next time.
So as the year draws to a close, I almost feel like I need to turn the volume down on the news. I’m tired of people shouting at each other. I’m tired of feeling helpless and scared.
I remain infinitely curious about the world, about people.
I want to seek out content that’s uplifting and entertaining and thoughtful and reflective, content that makes me think rather than despair. I want to listen to podcasts and watch videos and read heartfelt, funny, stimulating stories. And I want to share them with my friends..
I just don’t want to see life through the prism of the news anymore, not when it’s always bad.
Do you agree? Have you found yourself turning away from the news this year?