Find Happiness by Trading CNN for HGTV
I’m currently a week into my new media diet. As soon as Joe Biden was sworn in as president, I decided it was time to refresh my daily intake. Not because I don’t believe we all need to be politically active or outspoken (see all of my previous writing), but because in the end democracy did succeed, the adults are finally back in the room, and we can all breathe a least a tiny sigh of relief. The challenges ahead are daunting, and they will require all of us to be active citizens, but Jesus, I don’t need an update every five minutes. Enough.
So starting Thursday, once the inaugural celebrations were complete, I committed to a new media diet: I now check the news in the morning online over coffee (CNN, New York Times, MSNBC ); I spend a half-hour at lunch reading an actual column or full articles (Medium, New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Economist, and for silly fun, People); then I watch CBS Evening News for a half-hour at night. That’s it. No Facebook. No Twitter. No Instagram. No endless doomscrolling. I deleted all the apps. I put a sign on my desk: “Mamala’s got it.” And I refocused my daily energy.
The biggest change: I swapped out CNN for HGTV. For the last week, my evenings have been spent binge-watching Home Town, HGTV’s Southern reno charmer. A local design duo who once lived in New York now live in their home town, and they gut run-down homes for families who are new to the area. Genius, y’all. Instead of Erin and Don, I spend time with Erin and Ben. Instead of a New York soundstage, I journey through Laurel, Mississippi. Ahhh, trees. Instead of a pundit, a politician, and a press secretary, I watch a painter, a pipelayer, and an upholsterer.
I am not suggesting that you do the exact same. You do you. Your brain is your brain. But I will tell you this: I have had a much happier week. I am calmer, clearer, and much more focused. I have to — I want to — have faith that this ship is no longer heading toward an iceberg every waking minute. I’m making an effort to focus on the things that spark joy (thanks, Marie Kondo), that generate both active and passive income (thanks, Suze Orman), and that don’t waste my precious “fucks” (thanks, Sarah Knight).
And that means I have to stop spending four to six hours every day allowing CNN (and The View) to get a rise out of me. From now on, information and entertainment are two different needs, and I will fill those needs from two different sources. Don’t get me wrong: I love Anderson (at his desk, not when he subjects himself to New Year’s Eve clowning with Andy Cohen). And I love Chris Cuomo (I have been known to wish he were my husband). But I can’t do it anymore. It’s over. It’s time to reset, to once again draw a line between what I consume to stay up-to-date and what I consume to pass the time.
And passing the time with HGTV is much more fun. The biggest question: Which house will they choose? The biggest drama: whether or not the stove is the right size. The biggest villain? Wood rot. These people are not angry. They’re not histrionic. They’re not disappointed by the world and everyone in it. The only thing they’re trying to win is the love of their spouse and of the audience. And, man, have they won it. I’m in.
I plan to continue this new media diet. For now. We’ll see how it goes. As we have learned this past year, the world can change in a second. But I am trusting my government to do the right thing, and I am bringing sanity back to my desk, my phone, my brain, and my heart. I’m using the newfound extra time in my week — the hours I once spent marinating in news-induced dread — to volunteer for local politicians I believe in. There are only so many hours in the day and in the week. It is time to start using them more wisely.