As a minimalist, you always want to get rid of things that aren’t bringing you happiness and meaning in life. Let me ask you something. How much has the news brought you happiness recently? When was the last time you logged into Facebook or Instagram and it gave you meaning? If you’re like most people and it’s been awhile, it’s time to practice digital minimalism approach to news and social media.
Before I go into this, let me clarify something for those who might ask, “Do we have to stop watching the news and be uninformed?” No, not at all. You can keep watching and reading the news, but there has to be a limit. You ever noticed that at a certain point you’re no longer learning anything new?
You’re just getting the same thing repeated to you from the last hour. Isn’t that crazy? Would you read the same page of a book every hour? Exactly. You wouldn’t. But here’s the thing about media corporations. They gotta make money too, and even when there’s only old news, they gotta keep reporting like it’s new.
Their job is not just to inform you, but to keep you watching. Keep you clicking. Because if you keep watching, you keep those ratings up. If you keep clicking, you keep their web traffic up. And when you help them keep all those things up, that’s more advertising money for them. Just look how rich these guys are.
But I digress. This isn’t about them. It’s about how you watching less helps you as a minimalist. And watching less news helps you because it clears up a major thing that brings your emotions down.
The News Is Super Depressing
Let this sink in. The APA found that the more people watch news, the more feelings of anxiety and sadness increase. Because what we’re watching mostly is either somebody got killed, somebody got arrested, or everybody going crazy about Trump.
Is it me, or did it just get hot in here?
(Sorry, not that kind). Some of you who are the biggest news junkies probably are because of politics. Depending on what side you’re on, you’d like to know if the Dems are keeping Trump in check, or if Trump is owning the “libs” again. You’re either afraid the world is ending, or you’re afraid your country is being taken from you.
That about sums it up on both sides. But back to minimalism again. We’re about joy and meaning, so where is the joy and meaning in all of that? People talk about being politically engaged to make things better, but they don’t even get involved in their own communities.
Do you go feed the poor after you watch somebody yell about income inequality? Or on the other side, do you do anything to help women dealing with unwanted pregnancies while you’re listening to conservative folks calling for bans on abortion?
This is the kind of stuff you can be doing, whatever you’re passionate about, instead of wasting your time watching people yell on TV or reading all the stupid comments people say online. As a result, you decrease your feelings of anger and depression, and increase your feelings of joy and meaning.
One of the biggest things research has shown about happiness is that giving back to others makes you happy. Altruistic behavior releases endorphins (that stuff that makes you smile) inside of you. So go out in the world and help make people’s lives better. You’ll make people feel better, and you’ll make yourself feel better.
30 Minute Minimalist Challenge
As I said earlier, you don’t have to completely stop watching news. So here’s a minimalist challenge for you. For one week, spend no more than 30 minutes reading or watching the news. You could spend a few minutes in the morning, afternoon and the evening. Write down your times on a piece of paper. Track how you feel throughout the week while doing it. You might see with each day that the challenge gets easier for you.
What I’ve found most profound as I followed the news less, is that the world just keeps going on whether I’m watching it or not. So it doesn’t need my attention as much as I need my attention in making my life happy.
Minimalism And Social Media
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. I can barely even remember what life was like before they existed. But here we are. No longer just busy following the news, we now get to be busy staying nosy about other people’s lives.
No disrespect, I’ve been the nosy one too.
But then there’s the questions that always comes up. How much does social media really help us connect more and be happy? Hate to break it to you, but not much at all.
Looking at the latest (spoiler alert: photo-shopped) Instagram photo and stalking the latest Facebook posts from our ex (guilty!) only makes us more sad and miserable. Numerous studies have linked social media use to increased depression, anxiety, sleeplessness and many other mental health issues. Fun, huh?
And the reason we’re looking at these sites so often is because of dopamine. What is dopamine? It’s a chemical that regulates pleasure in our brain. Those social media sites are designed in such a way to activate those pleasure centers, making you want to keep clicking back.
So don’t be too hard on yourself if you struggle with this. Tech companies do shady things.
Minimalist Approach To Social Media
So what do we do to cut back on this? First you have to decide you want to do it. Decide you want to take back the happiness and meaning social media stole from you.
Once you’ve made that decision, determine what you’re going to do instead of being on social media. Do you want to spend more time with your family and friends? Is there a hobby you want to get into again? Decide that’s what you’re going to do instead of checking your phone and computer all the time.
Lastly, make a schedule. Some of you might be able to completely cut off social media, but others of you might have to gradually decrease your time. Start off with committing to only an hour a day on social media for a week. Schedule when you’ll have that time. You can break it down throughout the day or pick a specific time.
Keep track of your time on a piece of paper again. Then the next week, cut down to 45 minutes. Then 30 minutes. 15 minutes. And then take the biggest challenge. Spend a whole week off social media (Yes, that’s possible.)
Funny (or gross) story, my girlfriend only checks her Instagram whenever she’s on the toilet. It keeps her from going “down the rabbit hole” of random crap she sees on there (no pun intended).
As you’re doing this minimalist exercise, write down how you feel. Figure out your ideal amount of time to spend on social media. Some of you may decide you don’t need to spend any more time on there. And others of you may think a few minutes a day works best.
Moderation Is Key
So here’s the takeaway message. News in moderation can be informative. Social media in moderation can keep you connected. But don’t let news and social media consume your time. And don’t let it rob you of the meaning and happiness in life you deserve.