To further these endeavours we’ve been actively avoiding the news for some years now.
We’ve found that it serves no purpose whatsoever.
If you’re entrenched in the ‘I have to stay abreast’ camp, perhaps you’re staring aghast at your screen right now. Horrified at the mere thought.
Allow me to quell your concerns. If it’s important enough we’ll hear about it. Even when it’s not important we’ll hear about it.
If you’re in the ‘I also hate the news’ camp, maybe you’re thinking, “Ha! My sister from another mister. I knew I wasn’t alone.” Or something along those lines.
The problem is, it’s no longer enough to simply switch the TV off. The news we’re trying so hard to avoid is showing up everywhere nowadays, especially on social media.
Even if you make a habit of following upbeat and inspiring folks, the chance of negative nonsense showing up on your timeline is still pretty good.
Up until now I’ve been ignoring these instances. I simply scroll past them in the hope of finding something more cheerful, like chickens walking on grass for the first time.
But it’s time for a more proactive approach.
The iPhone Effect
The other thing I’ve noticed is how habituated I’ve become to my smartphone. I recently came across a study, aptly named the iPhone Effect, which looked at the quality of in-person social interactions in the presence of mobile devices.
What it boiled down to was this: conversations without a smartphone present were reported to be superior to those where there was one on the table. In short, our phones distract us without us even realising it.
What do you do with your phone when you’re out with others?
Even though we wouldn’t respond to calls or messages, Sporty and I would still put our phones on the table when we went out. Since learning about the study we’ve taken to leaving them in our bags (on silent).
I’m not sure if it’s improved our overall experience, but knowing we’ve made the effort to be more invested in the conversation has made us feel decidedly pleased with ourselves. Which I guess is an improvement of sorts (even if there is an element of smugness about it).
Between writing the last paragraph and starting this one, Sporty and I went out for sundowners. She left her phone at home, while mine languished in my bag.
I asked her if she’d noticed a difference since we’d instituted the ‘no phone on the table’ rule. She said she definitely felt more relaxed and at ease and also found that she no longer obsessed over the time.
As we chatted I realised that not having a phone in sight has resulted in me being more in the moment and less distracted. Good times.
Downsizing Social Media
I’ve become more and more disenchanted with social media of late. Aside from the negative aspect I mentioned earlier, it’s also a huge time suck. Which, as a writer prone to procrastination, is definitely something to avoid.
I also think it’s just another way we take ourselves out of the present moment. And given that this moment is all there is (to quote every spiritual teacher ever), I want to make damn sure I’m fully in it.
A Minimalist Smartphone
As much as there’s a part of me that would love to get a feature phone again, I love Uber and Google Maps too much to give them up. So here’s the plan.
I’ve deleted all the social media apps off my phone. I’ve also deleted all other apps that could possibly serve as a portal down the rabbit hole e.g. Pocket, Brain Yoga, etc.
I still have Gmail and Whatsapp, but they’re both useful and don’t really offer that much of a distraction anyway, so I figure they can stay.
A Minimalist Browser
Before, I had all my social media profiles saved on the bookmarks bar in my browser. You know, for easy access whenever the need to procrastinate overtook me. I’ve deleted the lot.
And, because I know all I have to do to get Twitter back is type the letter ‘t’ into the search bar (yeah, I’m that predictable), I also logged out of all my profiles as well.
That means I now have two hoops to jump through before I can settle down to the serious business of procrastinating. Hmmm…suddenly it’s not all that appealing.
I checked the ‘remember password’ option when Google asked me, so it’s still pretty easy to get my procrastination game back on. But for now, I think it’s enough.
Should I notice matters getting out of hand I’ll just go ahead and clear my cache. Ha, I see your devious ways Resistance and I’ll raise you a third hoop if it comes to that!
A Minimalist Approach to the People I Follow
The third and final part of my three-pronged approach to downsizing negativity is to unfollow the people who are sharing and/or reacting to the negative nonsense I’m trying to avoid.
Maybe it’s a bit extreme, but here’s my thinking. If it serves no purpose, I don’t need or want to know about it. I think the world would be a much better place if we invested more time sharing the good stuff and less time hate mongering.
Maybe it’s all just Pollyanna pie in the sky idealism on my part, but I reckon it’s worth a try. After all, we’re way happier since we stopped watching the news, so why would this be any different?
I’ll give it a month and get back to you.