This is what you should do when the news makes you depressed

I was having a call with my mother this week and she shared with me how depressed she gets from reading the news all day. There is so much negativity going on in the world, combined with the fact that the lockdown keeps us inside our homes, glued to our phones and with unlimited access to other news sources like newspapers and television.

I hear myself offering a solution to my mother, but like most people, she just wants a sympathetic ear. Our conversation made me think about how I myself perceive the daily news. I definitely understand my mother’s complaint but I also think it’s a matter of perception. Let me give you an example.

There seem to be protests around the world all the time at the moment. From the farmers protest in India to the anti-coup demonstrations in Myanmar and the Black Lives Matter marches that went global last year. This could give you the feeling that the world is on fire, but an alternative thought can also be:

  • through digital technology we just know about all the protests that we didn’t know about before.
  • And, the protests have become more inclusive, with a large number of women participating and people from ethnic minorities or lower castes who feel the freedom to let their voices be heard. Isn’t that a beautiful sign of progress in our time?
Illustration by Inge Snip for the article “‘We’re unstoppable’: meet the women leading Myanmar’s protests”

The protests have become more inclusive and not just that, it’s also the improvement of gender equality in the media that causes women to be in the spotlight more easily than before.

Of course, I could name plenty of events happening every day that would make you instantly depressed. But what would be the use of that? I call myself a realist. Not a pessimist nor an optimist. An optimist sometimes sounds like you don’t want to accept reality, you just want to stay positive. Whereas a realist sees things exactly as they are and therefore concludes that the situation in the world is often better than we perceive through the news.

I’m aware of the discussions about how the media should take responsibility and report in a more positive way. You’d be surprised though about the amount of media organizations that made constructive and solution-focused journalism already the core of their work. Besides that, if you wait for institutions to change, you first of all don’t take your own power seriously enough and secondly, it will take too long and you’ll get depressed before that happens.

Digital hygiene

So, start today by not just taking care of your personal hygiene but making a habit of pursuing your digital hygiene as well.

And by digital hygiene I don’t just mean less screen time or putting your phone off in the evening, I actually want you to think more consciously about the sources you pick and the perspectives you choose to see.

Here are some tips on how to do that:

1. When you read the news, challenge yourself to find something positive in the story. Or Google the topic and find other sources with a more uplifting angle. Things are never only just bad. The coup in Myanmar for example results in more Burmese people now acknowledging that they’ve been too quiet about the atrocities happening to the Rohingya refugees before. Does it make the coup justifiable? Of course not. But the awareness of the Burmese people towards the suffering of ethnicities in their country is an important step forward toward a new form of democracy.

2. Diversify your feed. Like I said before, there really are a lot of — mostly smaller — news organizations that draw a more constructive picture of our world instead of the sensationalist headlines produced by mainly mass media. You have the power to consume the news you want.

3. Decolonize your mind. We all grow up in a certain framework through which we see the world. Mine is the framework of a white Western woman. Step one in decolonizing your mind is to acknowledge that your lens is just one of the opinions out there. It’s not the default. Challenge your belief system, ask yourself questions like: ‘How would I look at this if I would live in another part of the world/ I would have a different skin color/ etc?’. And consciously read stuff from those other perspectives. If you grew up in Western society like me, read Black authors, watch movies from makers outside of the Global North, consume news from journalists who have roots in the country where they report on.

I hope this helps. Let me know in the comments what you do to stay positive in these overwhelming times.

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Exploring the solutions to the lack of inclusion in journalism, focusing on decolonising journalism and discussing whiteness, Eurocentrism and objectivity.