COVID-19 is a very smart virus. It has infected news channels months ago and has been causing feverish news reporting ever since. But we tend to forget that news is infectious.
Don’t get me wrong—I like staying informed, but I don’t like news much. Luckily, you can have the first without the latter. Here’s why I think you shouldn’t bother too much about the news these days.
It gives you a false sense of being safe and in control by externalizing reality and turning it into a remote experience that happens out there to other people. It doesn’t connect you to reality but disconnects you from it. News can only present broken fragments of reality, not life’s continuous flow.
News often leads to negative mood changes. It can easily generate sadness and anxiety, feelings that are not necessarily bad in themselves, but which reinforced every day during a lockdown can quietly undermine your mental fortitude (<– haven’t used this fancy word in a long time, couldn’t help it).
The mind suffers from negativity bias—we pay attention to information that worries or scares us. You’re probably going to get a biased view of what is happening. News reporting is for the most part inherently dramatic and negative. If they’d report just how peaceful life is these days in so many parts of the world, nobody would care.
Right now there are many opinions from many people–and so, many contradictions. After all, we live in the age of information overload. The real experts are few and they are too busy doing the important work for them to waste time on interviews.
IIt takes you just a few minutes to check official press releases and statistics provided by your government or a reliable global source. Facts are abstract and impersonal. Even when they are bad, they don’t come wrapped up in panic.
You can find deeper truths in books about epidemics such as The Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe, The Plague by Albert Camus, or Blindness by Jose Saramago. Even though these books describes different diseases that occurred in different ages, they give you a more intimate and more thoughtful perspective on the effects of an epidemic.
Important news finds you—you don’t have to go looking for it. When your country comes out of lockdown and a coronavirus vaccine gets approved, you will hear the echoes of the joyful shouts without having to turn on the TV. Big news is louder than ignorance and always travels fast.
You are much less likely to lose a momentous coronavirus development by not following the news than you are to overload your mind with negativity, sadness, and anxiety.
These days clean hands are not enough—we also need clean minds. And a lot of news right now is not clean but dirty with other people’s biases and anxieties.
Leave the TV off, stop browsing news sites daily, and disable news updates on your phone. Your mind and your body will thank you for it. Your immune system will probably get stronger too.