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Breaking Our News Addiction
Mom with a View

Breaking Our News Addiction

Can you go two weeks without following the news?


“The news is so bad,” a friend said to me the other day. “I’m really frightened and worried – but I need to know what’s going on.”

“Why do you need to know?” I asked. “Are you campaigning to be the next Prime Minister of Britain or President of the US (both jobs seemingly up in the air and available to just about anyone!)? Are you sitting on some important intelligence committee or involved with strategic planning?”

Yes, we all believe that we need to know what’s going on in the world. So we immerse ourselves in a constant barrage of information that damages our peace of mind, our ability to function and ultimately our trust in the Almighty. With the information overload and our relative inability to influence events, it’s all too easy to give in to despair.

Here’s a radical solution: Turn off the radio or television or computer – whatever is the source of your news. Yes, just turn it off. If you turn it on a week or two weeks later, you may have missed some specific events that someone will tell you about anyway, it’s unlikely anything significant will have changed. And if anything significant changes, it’s unlikely it will affect you. And if affects you, it’s unlikely you can do anything about it!

When we were living in Israel during the Gulf War, we were all glued to our radios. We were news junkies, awaiting minute by minute updates. We could rationalize our behavior (and thus our distraction from more spiritually-oriented endeavors) by telling ourselves that we would hear the siren through our radios and of course we needed to hear the siren. Someone came up with a brilliant solution – a solution that allowed us to both hear the sirens on Shabbos and engage in our regular daily activities without fear of missing it: they created a radio station that was silent – unless there was a siren! No more wasted time listening to the 24-hour news cycle.

If you can’t quite bring yourself to turn it off, then drastically limit it and tune in once a day.

If you can’t quite bring yourself to turn it off, then drastically limit it and tune in once a day. Don’t make the news, especially the bad news, the background noise to your life. Even without this particular negative effect, there are so many reasons not to have the television or radio constantly playing. Get the information you (think you) need and then turn it off. And avoid talk radio at all costs!

This is a practical approach with spiritual benefits. Now that we have weaned ourselves from activities that take us down a dark path, we need to look for a positive response. In this I remind myself of the verse in Proverbs (21:1) that teaches us that the “heart of the king is in the hand of the Almighty”. It seems like the world leaders are controlling the world but it is only an illusion. Nothing happens without the Almighty’s acquiescence. He is pulling the strings. This is a comfort despite how dire events may look on the surface. He is running the world. It is all according to His master plan. I tell myself these ideas over and over and over all day, every day. They help me out when I get into a funk about challenges in my personal life and they enable me to move forward after I’ve broken my own rule and snuck a peak at the news!

Without this knowledge, I would be paralyzed, I would despair. With this knowledge, I have only hope. There may be challenging times ahead (when have there not been?) but ultimately it will be good. I believe that most of us recognize this reality. It is what gives us the hope and energy to get out of bed every day and put one foot in front the next and keep moving.

It takes self-discipline not to watch the news. It can be an addiction, a bad habit like any other – but if there’s anything that we really “need to know”, it’s not what Anderson Cooper or Chris Matthews have to report; it’s that this world is run by the Almighty who is a loving Father who only wants our good and that ultimately everything will work out.

July 2, 2016

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Anonymous, October 30, 2017 4:14 PM

The author is very in touch with the truth of Torah that is now being manifest in the field of psychology in the practice of "mindfulness" where people relearn to experience life rather than be frazzled by inputs etc.

(5) Mr. Cohen, July 20, 2016 6:53 PM

New York Times Hates Israel and Jews

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky said:

“In the genocidal war being waged against the Jewish people, the New York Times is an accomplice.”

A New Low, a blog article by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, 2015/10/29

When will Jews STOP buying the anti-Jewish New York Times?

(4) Elisabeth Stewart, July 10, 2016 9:40 PM

News addiction

Thank you for such a powerful message and the reminder that all things are in the Hands of the Almighty. The news in Dallas was so devastating the other night. It is to trust iin His power. Shalom to all our families.

(3) LC, July 8, 2016 12:32 PM

Right On!

I stopped listening to and reading the news for about 6 years. My life was more peaceful, since the news is designed to make us anxious, so we tune in the next day (or the next hour).

In fact, I still knew about the headline type news, since someone would inevitably mention it to me during the course of a conversation. Funny - there's a lot less "emotion" around hearing news about current events when a regular person tells you than when you hear it on a news show.

Unfortunately, I fell off the wagon a couple years ago and got back into listening to the news. I would get into the events and all of the drama surrounding them (which is what the news agencies want) and my peace of mind was under siege. Thank G-d, I stopped listening to and reading the news again about 3 weeks ago, and I now have a more even keel serenity and peace of mind. Not because I live in fantasy land, thinking that nothing is happening in the world. But because it's not cluttering my mind. What's the use of being occupied by it, if you can't do anything about it anyways. Don't worry - if you for some reason need to know a certain piece of news, it will reach your ears somehow.

By the way, I live in Israel and somehow have survived. Imagine that!

But if you still feel that you just need to know, why not do what many of our great rabbis do (who are making crucial, life altering decisions for people and entire groups all of the time)? Just look at the headlines of a newspaper or a news site and nothing more. This way you have an idea what's going on without all of the commentary.

Let's get real - very few news items and current events have any real impact on our lives. And you can find out everything you need to know about the presidential candidates a short time before election day by going to a few trusted news sources. You don't need a daily blow by blow.

Wishing all of you peace of mind and an awareness of God's hands in everything.

(2) Rachel, July 7, 2016 6:22 PM

You're wrong about this, Emunah

It's unlikely anything will have changed, that it will affect you, or that you can do anything about it?

Things change all the time. We have seen terrorist attacks in Israel, the Middle East, and the US in the past month. I have emailed my Congress members to withhold funds from PLO. I am going to volunteer on my Shuls security watch committee. I have also expressed my opinion in favor of not allowing those on terror watch lists to buy guns. And of course, I have prayed for all the victims, and for the safety of IDF and US military and diplomats.

We have learned more unsavory things about both presidential candidates. I am continuing to look into the facts about both of them so I can vote wisely. I have decided not to donate money to either campaign at this time.

Brexit has important financial consequences, so I have made some investment changes and plan to make a couple more in the next two months.

Of course Hashem is ultimately in control, but He also has given us free will to make decisions. As my grandmother used to say, G-d helps those who help themselves. And as citizens of democracies, we have a civic obligation to keep informed about our governments and leaders, in order to participate wisely. Those who ignore such things seem disinclined to assure that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

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