Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty for Ignoring the News

Staying off the anxiety roller coaster of the war isn’t inherently selfish

Karla Starr
Forge
Published in
5 min readFeb 24, 2022

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I was living three blocks away from a hospital in Queens when the pandemic started. The sounds of sirens and helicopters woke me up in the middle of the night, when I’d check the COVID statistics page on the New York Times and start wondering what my day would look like.

It’s getting worse. It feels like a war zone, I texted my family on the west coast. You’re just being paranoid, my brother replied. Stop watching the news.

But I wasn’t just watching the news: I was also looking at ambulances out of my window, waiting in long lines to enter the grocery store, feeling anxious whenever I’d brush up against someone in a tiny aisle, and getting frustrated when I couldn’t even run laps at the park without nearly bumping into a million people — because, you know, New York.

Stress is anything that impacts our survival and fitness, caused by an imbalance between a situation and the resources we have to manage it. The Coronavirus — uncontrollable, new, dangerous, possibly anywhere — fit this definition like a key. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from stress, to take a punch and adapt to the situation. The best way I could adapt to the situation and reduce my stress, I realized, was to control my attention.

I stopped watching the news. I stopped getting angry when other people weren’t obsessing over the news. I still hated waiting in those lines (and ended up leaving New York), but get this: I didn’t die. My mental health and the quality of my life improved.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Here’s why you shouldn’t feel guilty for ignoring the news:

1. Awareness is relative.

For every topic you know a lot about, there are plenty you’re completely unaware of. I know little about biotechnology, ancient history, chemistry, video games, or even what my own cousins are up to. (Every person who claims to be an expert on a topic is probably unaware of how little they actually know until they talk to an actual expert.)

If someone doesn’t know as much about X as you, that doesn’t mean that they’re completely uninformed about it: awareness

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Karla Starr
Forge
Writer for

Speaker & author x2, inc. Making Numbers Count (w/ Chip Heath). Behavioral science, cultural history, numbers.