I have a confession: Before I worked at TVP Communications, I rarely watched, read, listened to, or followed the news. I didn’t have cable (still don’t) or Twitter or Google Alerts. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be informed; I couldn’t handle the information overload, and the information I did receive just made me sad so much of the time.
But in this field, in this role, it’s impossible to avoid the news. In fact, I spend a lot of my time anxious that I’m not following the news closely enough or getting stories out ahead of the latest trending topics. I officially developed FOMO—the fear of missing out. I know FOMO is used more often in context of social experiences, but for me it is a worry of missing information. I constantly have information coming at me and I am often concerned about overlooking opportunities to connect to the news.
I sometimes wonder how much information I’m actually processing and retaining, or how much critical thinking I’m doing when I’m getting live updates all day long about what feels like hundreds of topics. Sometimes, I follow the news so closely that it feels like a distraction from the work that I need to follow the news for!
Before my maternity leave, I started to wean myself off of compulsively checking news sources and shut off all of my push notifications. And then I was truly unplugged for 12 weeks. Partly because I didn’t have time to watch the news (or when I did have a free moment, I chose to sleep or shower or eat instead) and partly because whenever I did tune in, I immediately started to cry. Headlines of terrorist attacks and hateful politicians would make anyone weep, let alone a hormonal new mother.
So, I stopped checking in. And I didn’t have a single bit of professional FOMO or feel disconnected. Sure, I was MUCH less informed, but it was a nice break. I was more focused on tasks at hand (granted, I also had an infant who demanded my full attention). I also felt like when I read something, I read more slowly and retained more information. That pause helped me reflect, which is something that I’ve always valued.
Coming back last week, I gave up my no-news life cold turkey, and frankly, it was a non-transition; I should have taken a little more time and caught up on the news slowly. I found myself inundated by old emails, tweets, Slack messages, and it was hard to pick where to start to catch up. Even once I sifted through all of the junk, three months of news was a lot to take in all at once.
But I survived, and a week later I have a few lessons learned to share:
- Stepping away from the news can provide a really interesting big-picture perspective of trends and happenings. In catching up with the higher ed headlines from late October through January, I quickly saw that racial tensions had become quite heated on campuses and student activists and protests were popping up nationally. Inclusion on campus isn’t a new topic, but it was fascinating to see campus activism instantly become a trend rather than having it trickle to trend status story-by-story.
- Having more information doesn’t equal being more informed. You know the saying “you can’t see the forest for the trees?” I think some days, there’s so much I’m sifting through that important pieces and parts of the news get lost and my brain misses connections. In skimming and watching news roll in live, I can’t always step back to see the big picture.
- Being more mindful can have meaning off of the yoga mat. I try to have a greater sense of awareness and purpose when I’m doing things in my personal life, and it makes sense to me that I should be doing this in my professional life as well. I’m trying to set aside specific times to check my email and thoroughly read through the top headlines of the day so that I’m doing a higher quality and more comprehensive job with my information intake.
- Keeping notifications off is helping me keep my sanity. Being constantly reminded that I’m missing out on new information is a big contributor to my professional FOMO. Perhaps one of the best tech updates to happen during my leave was Slack’s Do Not Disturb feature. I love my team—truly, I do. But sometimes I need to focus and get work done, and this new feature is great! I also kept push notifications off of my phone for email, Slack, and Twitter and unpinned a few hashtags from my Tweetdeck. I’m still getting all of the information, just without the technological nagging.
Granted, I don’t have this balance between information overload and being informed totally mastered, and I’ll be readjusting to being on top of the news for a little bit. But for now, the only FOMO I’m dealing with is my daughter’s—I think she refuses to nap because she doesn’t want to miss out on all that’s going on in her new world!