Headlines making you anxious? Delay reading them
April 14 2018 10:52 PM
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GULF TIMES
There’s a trick to staying calm but well-informed: take your time catching up with the news.

By Oliver Burkeman/New York

It’s a rare week, these days, that you don’t encounter some new, extreme plan for staying sane in a world of insanity-inducing headlines. People used to recommend one device-free day a week, or the occasional “digital detox” retreat. But in recent months we’ve heard from the journalist who switched to a print-only news diet; the writer who’s lived tech-free since 2016 (his handwritten article for this paper was typed in by an editor) – and Erik Hagerman, an Ohio man profiled in the New York Times, who lives on an animal farm with no access to news, and who pumps white noise into his ears when he visits his local cafe, so he can’t overhear stray updates. One day, as the commentator Jeet Heer noted, such schemes may go too far, leaving Hagerman and his ilk in the position of those Japanese soldiers who fought the second world until the 1970s. When Trump gets impeached or defeated, or dies of a Doritos overdose, how will they ever find out?
Still, as I grapple with this problem myself, I’m increasingly convinced that the real cause of headline anxiety isn’t learning about worrisome new developments. Rather, it’s not knowing which new developments will prove to have been worth worrying about. Of the 45 troubling things you saw on Twitter this morning, two or three may prove to be signs of the rise of fascism/the destruction of the environment/the collapse of Brexit Britain. Yet the rest won’t. Once, it was the media’s job to sift stories of lasting significance from the rest; today, any publication that sat on a story for a week, to see if it had legs, would get screamed at for suppressing the truth. The passage of time is the best filter for determining what matters. But being late is the one thing no social network, or modern news organisation, can afford.
You can afford it, though. Which is why one excellent way to stay calm but well-informed, I’ve found, is to consume the news a day or three later than everyone else. Print is one way to do this. But it works online, too: more and more, I find myself promiscuously cruising the web, saving umpteen articles in a “read later” app (in my case Evernote, though you could use your browser’s bookmarks). By the time I read them, the time filter has worked its magic: a small proportion of them stand out as truly compelling. It’s an imperfect system, since of course you have to become aware of a story to clip it in the first place. But it soon gets easier to tell yourself not to dwell on it till later.
After I’d done this for a while, it struck me that it’s essentially what I’d been doing for years with especially persistent personal worries: I’d make an entry in my calendar two or three weeks from today, and resolve not to fret about the matter till then. In almost every case, by the time the date rolled around, the issue seemed absurd. Everyone tells you to live in the moment – but there’s much to be said for putting the moment off for a few days. - Guardian News and Media




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