Why I Stopped Reading the News During the Pandemic

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Growing up, I was frequently reminded of the importance of reading the news. My family was always subscribed to at least one (physical) newspaper, and magazine subscriptions were not uncommon. A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, however, I’ve decided not to read the news anymore. Most local news websites are blocked on all my devices, in addition to aggregators and social media websites where links to these news sites are shared.

The reason? Mental health. Over the last few months, I found myself repeatedly checking news sites for updates related to the COVID pandemic. The habit got worse as the situation started to go downhill in India. On most days, I spent between 30 and 45 minutes in bed in the mornings, doom-scrolling on various news sites.

Negative news sells. And as the pandemic worked its way around the globe, the news articles often only highlighted the worst aspects. I found myself increasingly obsessed with the negative news. Toxic, misinformed, or vitriolic comments on news websites that allowed them didn’t help much either.

I noticed that I’d started feeling a general sense of anxiety and unease. Sometimes, I’d feel a sense of danger and hostility during benign activities like walking to work.

After failed experiments with partial blocks and gradual weaning, I realized that the only real solution was to just stop reading the news every day. A few days ago, I went through the headlines on a website I frequented and asked myself:

  1. Are there any actions I could have taken from knowing this news that could have made my life better?
  2. What if I only found out about this a month from now?
  3. What if I never read this article?

I realized that for 99% of the headlines, there wasn’t anything useful I could do after I read it. And for most of the headlines, it would not matter at all if I never read it.

The small 1% of deadlines that actually mattered were announcements about the changes in COVID rules (group sizes, travel restrictions, etc.). For these announcements, I found that my needs were met by subscriptions to the official government WhatsApp and telegram groups and a quick check of the main website. These sources gave me the information I needed without any emotional messaging and interpretation that news websites offered.

Have your stress levels increased during the pandemic? If you’ve been reading a lot of news online, that could be part of the problem. Consider avoiding, or failing that, blocking these websites from your devices.

Personally, I found my days calmer, happier, and more productive after I cut down my news consumption.

If you’re looking for an easy way to block websites across all your devices, I can recommend the tool called Freedom. I bought a lifetime membership a year ago at the start of the pandemic. It’s probably the best investment that I made in myself last year.

Ashwin Narayan
Ashwin Narayan
PhD Student | Guitarist | Coffee Enthusiast

I am a PhD student at the National University of Singapore working with the Biorobotics research group

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