As I write this, I’m just a few days back from the silent retreat I lead each summer. Unlike previous years when I’ve been on retreat, this time I took a full break from reading news and engaging with social media. Disconnecting like that enhanced the benefits of being on retreat, which is always—no matter what kind of retreat— meant to be a break from everyday life. It is perhaps harder to retreat these days, since everyday life is so easy to bring with us in the form of our electronic devices.
I get much pleasure and enjoyment from social media, but along with the fun of connecting with congregants, colleagues, friends, and family comes the inevitable posts with news of injustice and corruption. I don’t aspire to live in a bubble. But I also cannot function well—or respond meaningfully—to the 24-hour onslaught of bad news. Social media, much as I enjoy it, participates fully in that never-ending onslaught.
So I was surprised, but perhaps shouldn’t have been, at how easy it felt to unplug. Instead of picking up my phone, I picked up a book. When I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself, I would go for a walk. There were plenty of things to do on retreat: work a puzzle, make a collage, walk the labyrinth. The activities I had to choose from all nurtured my spirit, calmed my wandering mind, or were just fun and interesting.
And perhaps most importantly, when I finally got home to catch up with the news, I found that there was very little that needed my attention. Certainly, there is always something happening, something to read, something to become absorbed by. And absolutely, newsworthy and significant events happen every day. It is not all just noise.
Still…there was very little that needed my attention. There was actually very little that I needed to catch up on in order to be informed. If I had been reading news throughout the week, I would have spent hours reading. To “catch up” and feel oriented took less than an hour.
I don’t know what that means for me in returning to regular life. Certainly I don’t think reading the news just once a week is something to aim for. What I did learn is that much of what captures my interest day in and day out probably isn’t that important. And there’s not a big a difference between hearing news immediately and learning it a few days later.
We are all of us struggling to figure out how we conduct our daily lives while living through these tumultuous and bewildering times. I invite you to join me in considering how to find the balance between “informed” and “overwhelmed” when it comes to news reading.
Blessings and love, Sharon