It has been weeks since I’ve turned on my television.
I don’t say that because I think it makes me better than anyone else. Earlier this year, I decided to make some changes to make my life more tenable. Cable TV didn’t make the cut.
I don’t miss it. Occasional forays on to Netflix fill the need on those nights when I feel like curling up on the couch and watching my entertainment instead of reading it.
But it does leave me at something of a loss when it comes to current events.
I’m not certain which former child star Miley Cyrus is and I couldn’t care less about what she does or doesn’t do.
I don’t live and die by the weather report. Weather happens. Sometime it happens TO me, but for the most part, I don’t give it a thought except to notice the blue sky or the pleasant breeze coming through the window.
I haven’t the foggiest idea who’s in the running for the MLB play-offs, but since my city isn’t abuzz about baseball, I’m guessing the Brewers are out of it.
I find many fewer things to need to buy the less I expose myself to advertising. (See also: cancelling magazine subscriptions and eliminating fashion blogs from my RSS feed.)
For all the good of this, it does leave me feeling flat-footed when it comes to issues like what’s happening in Syria. A situation that I was dimly aware of (after all this civil strife has been brewing for a while) seemed to suddenly bloom into talk of US military force and I wasn’t sure what to think. So, last week I watched the president’s talk to the nation online. Then I tried to educate myself further.
At the end of the evening, I realized that what I thought was a deficiency might actually have worked in my favor. Instead of flapping in the wind coming from the mouths of the talking heads in the 24 hour news cycle, I slowed down. I listened to many arguments about a variety of potential actions. I took the time to search out what Syrians had to say about the subject. I contemplated the ramifications this complicated, terrible situation has for so many people both in the Middle East and here.
Or there are days like today (and there have been too many of them), where a gunman opens fire on innocents. The horror at such a scene will always be there – should always be there – but I’m not certain that watching it play out live on TV is healthy for any of us. We’re living through the immediate fear of a situation that we have absolutely no control over. And to what end?
In the end, my opinions on current affairs or public policy don’t really matter — at least not in the context of this blog. What does matter is that breaking news is breaking our ability to think an issue all the way through. It has allowed us to spout opinions before we’ve gathered adequate information to even form an opinion. It’s breaking every issue down into a dualistic conservative/liberal smack down, when most issues are infinitely more complex than that. It’s headlines and tweets and 30-second cutaways trying to take the place of thoughtful dialogue. It’s keeping us glued to our screens instead of out in the world, working to make it better by connecting to others.
Watch TV or don’t. That’s not the point. But surely together we can find a better way to stay informed without leaping to conclusions based on inadequate, focus-grouped, ambulance-chasing, biased, poorly nuanced “news.”