I too decided that I needed some time out from the news last week. No Radio 4. No BBC News. No Twitter. No Facebook. No Guardian
politics live blog. No Owen Jones. No Paul Mason. No leafing through a grubby, discarded Evening Standard
on the Tube.
As a journalist, news-junkie and Twitter addict, I didn’t find this easy. But on Thursday, I skipped my morning ritual of listening to the Today Programme
in bed and got an extra 30 minutes sleep. On the Tube, I listened to Warwick Davis’s Desert Island Discs
. I logged out of Facebook, temporarily deleted my Twitter mobile app, and Instagram too for good measure (I knew that pictures of my friends having fun at Glastonbury weren’t going to be any help to me.) In the evening, instead of tuning in to Newsnight
I saw Love Island
for the first time – watching the couples bitch about each other in the villa made me grimace far less than the unfurling Labour bloodbath.
I may have missed the ins and outs of the story that day – and the ‘Claire Blunderwood’ jibes on Twitter – but I felt no less informed and considerably better for unplugging.
While the news at the moment is like an unenjoyable version of The Thick of It
or House of Cards
, it will not end after a series of 10 episodes. This crisis is going to continue, week after week and years into the future. Some people may be able to shrug it off, or suggest growing a thicker skin, but can the relentless cycle of bad news add burden to people already struggling in their everyday lives?
Lola* decided to stop watching the news for six months last year when she was suffering from depression. “The majority of mainstream media is negative and being a very sensitive person, it became too overwhelming to look at,” she says.
“I would become acutely aware of the suffering and pain in the world which made it seem even more of a lonely and threatening place than the depression was already convincing me it was,” she says.
The news cycle can affect people in different ways, says psychotherapist Hilda Burke
. When it comes to Brexit, Burke says she’s seen a range of emotions from clients including feeling overwhelmed, powerless and despondent.
“It’s like a divorce, similar to what people might experience with the death of a relationship,” she says.