How to Stay Focused in a Garbage-Fire News Cycle – EMILY DREYFUSS April 9, 2017


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What a week. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in an attack killed 80 people, many of them children, and President Trump ordered an airstrike in retaliation. Representative Devin Nunes recused himself from the House investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Presidential advisor Steve Bannon lost his seat on the National Security Council and presidential advisor Jared Kushner forgot to mention a meeting with the Russian ambassador. Senate Republicans nuked the filibuster to get Neil Gorsuch a seat on the Supreme Court. Twitter sued the government to protect the privacy of an anonymous account, and then the government caved. Oh, and Pepsi outraged everyone with a tone-deaf ad starring Kendall Jenner.

That’s a lot to process, especially since this week was just like last week, and the week before that. Every day brings another story, another development, another reason to freak out. But the problem isn’t the nature of the news, or even the volume of it. It’s the intrusiveness. Headlines come at you from every direction, on every device. You can’t escape it, and, worse, may not even want to. Every push alert, every tweet, every Facebook update creates a neurochemical rush that conditions you to respond. This does more than make it hard to focus on work, play with your kids, or simply relax after a long week. It actively damages your health.

No one’s safe. You’d feel this way regardless of who occupies the White House, what happens in the Middle East, or how you view Obamacare. Information overload may be the last truly bipartisan issue. So what can you do? Toss your phone in the freezer? Escape to Hawaii? Hate to tell you, but I tried both of those things. Turns out cellphones still work in the freezer and on the beaches of Kauai. Plus, big, important things are happening in the world right now, and the worst thing to do is stop paying attention even if you have the luxury.

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