14 April 2013

Unexpected Consequences: News Break

Some time last year we started turning off the computers and iPads and video screens and similar devices on Friday evenings, not to be turned back on again until after sundown on Saturday.

An unforeseen side effect: a weekly break from the news.

I turned into an internet news junkie on 9/11.  Cell phones went down with the towers, and land lines went down because of overuse, but we didn't know until quite a bit later that was why, we only knew we couldn't reach friends and family.  Buses and subways were brought to a halt and air traffic grounded and cars banned from the streets and Manhattan below 14th Street was blockaded, patrolled by the National Guard, and the silence was palpable.

Meanwhile, The Mate was in Italy, and then in England, for the wedding of a friend.  I felt very, very alone.

Rumors flew freely: was the water next to go down? the electricity?  I didn't have TV, and had a radio only in my car, so when the phone lines finally came back on (this was in the days of dial-up internet access), I turned on my computer and started surfing the news, endlessly, sleeping only a few hours a night and obsessed with learning every detail about what was happening.

In subsequent years, I've continued reading the news on the internet, where the links are endless.  And, of course, a lot of what I'm viewing is only very loosely categorizable as "news."

It's only recently that it's dawned on me that by turning off the internet at sundown on Friday, I also turn off the news feed.  I take a break from constant awareness of ecological crises all over the globe, from the antics of news-hungry politicians, from the violence that seems to characterize the human condition.

It's easier to relax, not only because I'm not looking into a glowing screen, but also because I'm not taking in all the awful stuff that counts as "news."  Another, perhaps related, unexpected side effect: Saturday afternoon naps.