By MJ, ELE Editor and Travel Writer
Ever since I was young I have loved to read and write and have been a voracious consumer of information and news. Naturally inquisitive, I couldn’t get enough of books and magazines. With the advent of the internet yet another avenue opened up to get more information. And not just any information but millions and millions of articles and stories, many in real time.
Over the last few years I found myself getting sucked in to trashy ‘click bait’ style websites, that cover everything from cheap celebrity stories to actual news, albeit somewhat sensational. A recent trip away with limited access to some of my go-to sites I started to realise that filling my head with this type of information was becoming detrimental to how I viewed the world – did I really need to know (or care) about which celebrity was dating who? Or how a suburban mum saved $200 a week by meal prepping? I had started to notice a worrying trend in the volume of stories I was reading that were based only partially on the truth. It was time for a self-imposed 30 day trash news ban.
I knew there was no way I could go without news of any sort for 30 days so I set some limits, upping my subscription to the The New York Times, allowing myself a once weekly viewing of abcnews.net.au for local Australian content and the occasional read of The Guardian. That was it though, no Twitter, no Facebook. Instagram was of course still acceptable (as a photo sharing app I figured it didn’t count). On the train on the way to the office that first morning, I immediately went to open my usual daily reading sites and had to stop myself. Instead I watched an episode of Queer Eye on Netflix and was surprisingly chilled out when I arrived at the office.
Day 2 – 5
The first challenge came on day 3, courtesy of a friend. A text reading ‘Oh my God – did you see that Kate wore shorts for the first time?? (Duchess Kate that is), It took a whole lot of self control to not open a website and read more. My interest was piqued – where they long shorts, sports shorts, tailored shorts? Was she at the beach? With the Queen? I needed answers.. but instead I went to the New York Times and read about the protests in Hong Kong until the desire passed.
At this stage I got myself into a nice rhythm. A morning check in of Instagram, the New York Times daily briefing, a scan of The Guardian and the work commute catching up shows I hadn’t watched, doing some work or listening to podcasts. I started to realise at this stage I had little idea of news that was happening within Australia, except what I overheard in the office or from friends. I also had no idea about the drama on The Bachelor and I was starting to feel ok with it. By not exposing myself to so much news I was feeling a little more at peace with the world. It may have been simply burying my head in the sand, but for a brief moment in time it felt good, really good.
By day 20 I was in a complete rhythm, apparently it takes 21 days to break a habit and for a new one to form, and this seems about right for me. I no longer automatically go to open a trashy site, they are no longer in my favourites and a whole stack of new information sources have opened up – podcasts, blogs and good old fashioned books. I’m watching YouTube a lot more, and getting sucked in to all kinds of make-up tutorials and travel videos. I may have just swapped one source of information for another but at least this makes me feel a little more at peace (and I also now know how to do a killer winged eyeliner).
I’ve done it! My 30 days is up. I have no idea where the Kardashians holidayed for summer, or more importantly what bikini they wore, I don’t know which Hemsworth broke up with his wife and is now officially back on the market (ok that’s a lie, of course I know that – all of my friends were talking about it!), or how to save a million dollars by swapping my morning latte for home brewed coffee. And do you know what? I’m perfectly happy with that – I feel a little smarter, I’ve listened to more pod casts than ever before, I’m more informed about international news and I’m somehow stressing a whole lot less about the state of the world. That’s not to say that I’ll never start reading those sites again, though I would like to think I will be a little more mindful of how much time I spend on them.
Have you ever given something up? Let us know your thoughts below.