This Autistic is Quitting the News
I just quit the news.
No. I’m not talking about watching the news on the television or listening to NPR on the radio. I quit those a long time ago.
I’m talking about my app: The New York Times.
The pandemic sucked me into the world of news that I had long avoided. As an autistic person, I am an extremely sensitive person. Stories of others' suffering impact me deeply. I also retain images in my mind. It’s why I don’t watch horror or movies with gratuitous violence. Not only can I recall the images perfectly, but they also make their way into my dreams. After seeing a zombie movie, I had dreams of people chasing me and eating me.
I am very careful about the images and stories I take in. I even got off social media for this reason (with the exception of Linked-in so I could maintain my professional network and share essays like this one).
When the pandemic happened, new updates were coming out daily. I wanted to stay informed, but I didn’t want to absorb all of the other horrible information. Furthermore, my therapy clients were drastically impacted by new pandemic information and the upheaval around the 2020 election. I wanted to be informed so that I could be a more prepared therapist.
A friend suggested I try the New York Times app. And that’s where it began. That was almost three years ago now. I joined for some basic news, and now, I am at the point where I check the news multiple times a day. I scroll through the entire app. I tell myself it’s for the good stories.
However, even the good stories are biting back. Earlier this week I clicked on a story, “This Son Says His Mother is the Best Mother in the World.” I wanted to read a happy story about a son loving his mother. It turns out it was quite a horrific story that included the topics of forced prostitution, extreme poverty, and more. I won’t give you the details here because I don’t want to pass on the emotional experience.
Reading that story impacted me for hours. I couldn’t shake it. Every time I think about it, it grips me again.
I mentioned this to my sister, who chuckled as she told me, “You fell for the clickbait.” She’s right, I did.
I can no longer protect myself from the stories that will emotionally impact me. The stories where I deeply feel for the person, but there is little that I can do. The stories make me think of all of the connecting thoughts that lead down a dark spiral.
It’s time to admit that I no longer use the app for what I originally intended. It’s also time to admit that it is not serving me. It is hurting me.
I do not wish to be an ignorant person in the world. I do not wish to shut myself off from the depravity of the world and live in a bubble. I want to care about others and take action when I can.
However, reading the news is actually making me a more distant human. I hear horrible things and then have to admit I cannot do a thing. I have to force myself to not think about it. I have to soothe my emotions. Who is this helping? It’s making me more exhausted and lowering my energetic capacity for the people around me.
I choose to believe that I can be a responsive, connective, and informed human being without reading the daily news.
We’ll see how it goes.
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