There’s a long list of reasons why this country is divided arguably more now than any time in the last 150 years. One primary reason is that we’re no longer arguing about how to make America a better country. Now, conservatives are working to save the country while Democrats are bulldozing to tear it down..
But another reason is the emergency of a 24/7 political news cycle. It used to be that people got their daily dose of news via the morning newspaper or before dinner during the 5pm news. First, there was the national nightly news, and then you could watch the local news.
There was a set time in the day for taking in the news, and then people went on with the rest of their daily lives. There was more to life. The news and politics was just a small part of it.
Those days are gone. It wasn’t long after CNN and other cable networks brought us the 24 hours news cycle that these networks started filling the majority of their time with news opinion shows. It was a seamless transition from 24 hours of “objective” news to a blurred line of news and opinion.
Now, there’s an entire block of cable and satellite channels dedicated to nothing but discussing the news, all day, and every day. One can sit and watch people share their theories and ideas about every news story they want. All. Day.
For many, it becomes all consuming, and it starts replacing other, more healthy activities in their lives. It destroys friendships, creates tension among families, and can keep people angry and frustrated.
I’m not suggesting it’s not important. Fighting for and maintaining our freedoms should be. But you also only get one life, and it should be full of interesting and fulfilling experiences. Following politics just fills people with frustration and bitterness. You can always find anger in how wrong or evil or stupid you find the other side of the political aisle.
As we head into 2021, I’ve been thinking about doing an experiment and now following politics or the news for the first six months to see if I’m happier and enjoying life more. Undoubtedly, I will. But at what cost?
I was asking a friend about this because I was concerned if I don’t follow at all, then politicians are free to walk all over me. Our political class depends on the citizens not having information and not understanding history or how our government works. Would I be giving up by not following?
She gave me an analogy that I think is appropriate for the times. She said it’s like following baseball.
To enjoy baseball, you should familiarize yourself with all the of rules and knowledge of who’s playing the game so you can enjoy the experience and get the most out of it, but you don’t have to watch every game or 24 hours of baseball news every day to follow it.
I think that’s true of politics, as well. Every citizen should understand how our government works and familiarize yourself with our lawmakers, adjudicators, and Presidential team. You should understand the major issues of the day, and maybe even have an opinion on them.
But you don’t have to be watching cable news and refreshing Twitter 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A good dose of news once or a few times a day should be plenty for you to be an informed citizen, while giving yourself plenty of time to pursue your personal interests, be fully present for the people most important in your life, and live a generally happy existence.
Obviously, you can do what you think is right. But this is just one perspective on how to achieve some balance in your life and still find happiness.
When I overindulge in political news, I find myself frustrated beyond my ability to process some of the horrible, ridiculous, unjust, or just plain stupid things I see along the way. So in 2021, I’m going to tone it way back, but still keep my toe in the water.
That way, if I am called upon, I’m in control of when I decide to jump back in.