No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there’s no doubt that keeping up with the news and data these days has been a hefty task all by itself. Whether you’re following the news in support, indignation, or somewhere in between, we’ve all got a shared task: staying informed without burning out.
I mean, there’s already enough to do in our regular, day to day lives, am I right? But active, participatory democracy requires an informed public—it’s our privilege and our responsibility to know what’s going on in our borders and beyond. The question then becomes how to stay informed in a sustainable way that doesn’t lead to being distracted from work or feeling overwhelmed afterwards. The answer is twofold: come up with an approach that works for you and use the tools at your disposal to keep your news intake on the rails.
First, Personalize Your Approach
What works for a friend, spouse, or even the general public won’t necessarily work for you. A little self questioning and maybe even some soul searching might be involved, but figuring out what really serves you versus what’s mostly just a (bad?) habit is the place to start.
Make Your Social Media Yours
After being without Facebook for a few years and feeling free, I reluctantly got back on it in order to join a couple of killer writing groups. I was happy about the connections I was making there, but really concerned about managing the inevitable friend requests and information overload from people at the fringes of my life that I still didn’t want. This isn’t going to be the solution for everyone, but what worked for me was hiding literally everyone from my newsfeed except for the writing groups I was in. This way I didn’t have to ignore any requests, but also didn’t have to participate in Facebook any more than I wanted to. The same individualized approach can be applied to all social media. Maybe it’s just as simple as slimming down the number of people or organizations you follow.
Beyond helping to manage the constant flow of information that has been 2017 so far, actually getting offline is just plain good for you. My meditation teacher often spends months in the mountains completely disconnected from everything because, as he says, “It’ll all be there when I get back. It’s not going anywhere.” If he can do it for months, we can all certainly leave our phones at home for a bit while we do something like walk the dog for a little bit of true peace and quiet.
Do Your Research
Look deeply into the places you get your news from. Who funds them? What’s the history of the people who run or edit the publication? Do their ethical priorities roughly align with yours? All you really need is one or two quality outlets for the information you need. Don’t be afraid to be selective—these places are going to color how you view the world, so make sure they’re worth it.
Secondly, Utilize Resources
One decidedly good thing about the internet is that it has produced quite a few things that make our lives easier if we use them right. Here are a few online resources that I use to keep myself informed in moderation.
This email newsletter comes every weekday and has a tone that I can’t get enough of—it blends current events with pop culture and whit in a way that makes it just as fun as it is informative. Bonus: It was started by a couple of killer ladies. #girlpower
This app is the handiest thing I’ve come across in years. You can install it on both your phone and desktop web browser and, with a tap or a click, you can save anything you come across on the internet to your Pocket for reading later. Say goodbye to that “oh my gosh I have to read this now because otherwise I’ll forget but really I have no time” feeling that happens when you stumble across something interesting on the web at an inopportune time.
If you’re not sure where you want to get your news from yet, or you just want a daily aggregation to peruse, SmartNews is it. It brings together news from a variety of outlets and sorts them by topic (think business, tech, science, etc) for easy breezy consumption. If you find yourself constantly going for the same source within their pages, I think you’ve found a winner for one of your personal go-to’s.