I enjoy being in the know; I don’t always enjoy the stress that comes with it. Current events aren’t for sissies. Hang about on the news pages for too long and your stress levels inevitably climb. It doesn’t matter what your interests are or what your political persuasion is. Soon enough, the news of the day will spike your blood pressure.
There’s a fine line between being informed and being overwhelmed. Thanks to the internet and the ability to know all and see all instantly, it’s getting crossed by various and sundry more often than not. You only have to observe the rage on social medial to realize that truth. We are overwhelmed and it’s making us testy.
And yet, I want to know. I’m curious. I want to learn things, be informed. But I forgot there’s a whole world of knowledge out there that isn’t based on current events. There are topics of interest that have nothing to do with attempts to self-heal.
Being overwhelmed by current events is partly my fault, a situation of my own making. I think that it’s important to pay attention but I just didn’t think to limit my intake. It is also partly the fault of social media algorithms. Yes, I look up the news of the day but the algorithms that narrow my interests and manipulate my feeds accordingly. The result is that while I’m exposed to bits of things environmental, political, and economic, my other interests are shunted to the side. The news that is shared is also the kind that focuses on the dark and the bleak, click-bait to keep advertisers happy. But the stream of ugly never abates and at times, I despair of my species. Thus, my mood takes a hit.
I’ve made a shift or two of late. The first thing I did was to reconfigure the algorithms on my social media pages. It’s not hard. Just look at different things deliberately. Ignore what the platforms suggest. The math programs adjust. Within a few days, my feeds were full of funny memes, inspirational quotes, articles about the efficacy of turmeric, and short stories about brides who turn into raving beasts in the run-ups to their weddings. It’s a nice change, especially following the tension-filled months leading up to the recent domestic general election.
The second thing I’ve done is external to the digital world. I’ve expanded my non-fiction reading selections beyond the areas of psychological self-help and personal growth. I’ve stopped perusing the “good for you” magazines. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading these things. I enjoy The Economist and The Walrus. I love the ideas; I love being informed and I love working on becoming a better person. But “better” could probably include “well-rounded”.
I’ve recently stumbled upon summary books, for want of a better word. Books like “What if?” by Randall Munroe and “A Brief History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. Big books full of little bits of information about a wide range of topics. Good on two fronts; I learn something new immediately and I’m inspired into making further inquiries down the road.
Physics is especially awesome. I wished I’d studied it more at school but the math seemed intimidating and biology offered me the opportunity to cut things up. Oddly, dissection is something I enjoy. It’s fascinating, observing first-hand the complicated elegance contained in the systems that keep things alive.
The great thing about learning about neutron stars or how the field of chemistry originated or what would happen if everyone in the world ended up on Rhode Island is that it’s stress-free knowledge. It doesn’t cause me angst. A steady current events diet of political intrigue, economic struggles, and climate problems does. A reading list entirely comprised of ways to improve does as well. An overdose in any of these areas is not conducive to a good mood; overconsumption causes me to struggle with my equanimity.
Apparently, my mother was right. Moderation is the key.
Being in the know is important. Being an informed consumer is important. So, I’m not going to withdraw entirely from the news of the world. Reconfiguring the percentages applied to the different areas I spend time on, however, is perfectly acceptable.
I think today I will learn about ants. I find them quite fascinating.
How do you curate your interests?