It’s an old adage that could still be relevant in war or disaster, but in our instant-messaging, over-hyped, 24-hour, socially-networked world, news of survival would probably travel faster than death. Unless you switch off.
In the past 6 months or so, No News has taken on a different meaning for me: it’s meant not reading a newspaper, not seeing or hearing a news bulletin, not joining any conversation on the latest headline horror. It started as an accident of geography plus a need to remove distractions while a book was finished. More recently it’s become a deliberate policy to continue the experiment.
This is not to say that I’ve been immune to all events – my inbox has links to news stories, the social media constantly reference them, the Olympics happened, people say ‘did you see?’ or ‘isn’t it terrible about that murder / earthquake / flood / bombing / banker’s-salary-scandal?’ Neither am I fooled that all is sweetness and light in the world simply because I know nothing to the contrary. Shit still happens.
Keeping up with the news was once an important part of my everyday life, so it’s been fascinating to see my own and other people’s reactions to my ‘news fast’. Almost universally, it has been perceived as opting out, as becoming something akin to a modern-day hermit. Less charitably, it has also been attributed to advancing years.
So where’s the Good News in this? For a start I don’t know any of the bad things that have happened in the world in the last 6 months. And simply not knowing is Good News. True, I don’t know any of the good things either, but as the media hardly ever report good news other than the novelty item at the end of the bulletin, it’s made no difference. By not suffering the daily deluge of grief and sorrow, anxiety and shock, life is that little bit less depressing. I am a little less weighed down by calamity, a little less guilty that I haven’t done anything towards fixing any part of this reportedly broken world. Not that I or anyone else can ever do anything anyway. I doubt there is a single thing any individual could have done to prevent or reduce the consequences or any of the headline news events in the last 6 months.
As if the tide of calamity and catastrophe were not depressing enough, the realisation that as news consumers we are powerless to affect any change only doubles the depression. The constant bombardment has a corrosive effect: 6 months without it has been a relief from low-level anxiety and impotent head-shaking.
Before anyone suggests this is no more than enjoying another old saying – ignorance is bliss – I would suggest the contrary. Ignorance leaves us unable to comment or understand, ignorance leaves us still consuming the news, but unaware of the insidious effect that it has on us.