Back in November 2016, when Trump was elected President of the United States, Erik Hagerman had a plan. Distressed by the hoopla of US politics he decided to stop reading the news. His experiment was part protest, part a coping mechanism and part extreme self-care. Living alone on a pig farm in rural Ohio this was clearly achievable in ways that it might not be had he lived somewhere else like Chicago. Hagerman travels into the local town, Athens, to buy coffee and to shop, but he keeps up his news blockage with the help of white noise from his headphones and an agreement with family and friends not to talk about current events. He does read the art reviews of the New Yorker, browses the classifieds and watches American football with the sound on mute, but otherwise he has been remarkably successful in constructing a world where very little he doesn’t like gets through to him. In this regard, he might be regarded as similar to the hundreds of millions of people that get their news via Facebook, which similarly filters out numerous stories and events. His approach has shades of Thoreau’s Walden too. Previously a senior executive with Nike, Disney and Walmart, he now spends his days (and his money) restoring a disused coal mine into a pristine pond – a project he calls The Lake.
Back in 2018, I personally stopped listening to most news on the TV. I still read a few newspapers, but mostly weekend papers and I read them several weeks, if not months, late. Does this work? In my experience, it does. I’m calmer, I’m able to see connections between ideas and events better, and I can scan the paper (it has to be on paper) faster because I have the benefit of hindsight. Why not try it yourself?