Last year, on May 12th 2018, as our plane took off from Cape Town, taking Catherine and me back to Athens to begin our summer season on Lady Roslyn, I decided to try an experiment on myself.
For the almost 4 months that we would be sailing on Lady Roslyn, I was going to see if I had the self discipline to not watch, read or listen to “The News”.
For most of my life I have been an avid reader and have loved keeping up with current affairs. Lately though, it seems as if we are being overwhelmed with a barrage of information which does not in reality have much to do with us and / or contains very little information that we can do anything about.
Before leaving Cape Town, I found myself getting anxious and upset by what Mr Trump was saying to Mr Kim of Korea, or by how the Brexit negotiations were going in the UK or what the politicians were doing to rape our country financially and enrich themselves. And, those were only the political aspects of the always-on always tuned-in news cycle that we find ourselves in.
The first mantra of the news media worldwide is “If it bleeds, it leads”.
Think about that, every news channel, be it radio, television, print or web based is getting your attention by shocking you, by selling you bad news, by making you believe that the world is in a far worse state than it really is.
I once read a very good article on the last page of Time magazine, in which the journalist argued that it was time for us to start applying a “DNK” (don’t need to know) filter to our lives. He argued, quite rightly, that as much as it may be unfortunate and tragic to hear about a bus that has driven off a cliff on the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan, or a mud slide which has wiped out a village in the Andes, you don’t actually need to know about it when you are sitting in London or New York or Cape Town.
A very good friend of mine wisely said to me, “Nic, the news you NEED to know will find you”, and that was the catalyst for me to try the experiment on myself.
Please do not misunderstand me, I am still passionate about gathering knowledge on the environment, on climate change and in particular on steps that can be taken to reduce plastic waste which is finding its way into the oceans, among other things. It’s just that I now get to choose the information I “need to know” and it’s not the “If it bleeds it leads" news media who get to choose what information I take in.
Onboard Lady Roslyn, the only “news / information” we really need to know are the weather forecast ahead and information about the places that we hope to visit. It's as simple as that.
So, how did it go?
Well, by October 15th, when we flew back home, I had, not once actively sought out any daily news put out by the media and I felt fantastic. Gone was the gnawing anxiety in my gut. Gone was the sense of doom about the state of the world. Gone was the “drug” fix that I had needed to feel connected.
I decided to keep going. Back home in Cape Town, I switched off the radio when news reports came on, I chose not to watch BBC or CNN on TV and removed the various news outlet bookmarks that occupied the Bookmarks Bar on my web browser.
We flew back to Lady Roslyn on 2nd May this year and on 12th May I celebrated a year of living “News Free” and it hasn’t ended there. I see no reason to go back and hope to continue with the experiment.
Many may argue that it is vital to keep up with current affairs, that it makes you a more informed, educated and knowledgeable person. After a year of not seeking out the news I have to say that I don’t feel less informed, less educated or less knowledgeable. I do feel less stressed, less worried and less spoon fed by a hungry media eager for my attention.
And that’s a good thing.