First I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts, agents of digital dysphoria that were turning me and countless others into crazy people. But I didn’t stop there. I cancelled all my newspaper and periodical subscriptions, including the Wall Street Journal, a once but no longer trusted news source I had read every morning for more than 30 years. Then I gave up writing opinion columns. I stopped listening to NPR. I deleted all the browser bookmarks I had accumulated for news and commentary sites that kept me “informed,” including inflammatory volcanoes of vituperation like Zero Hedge. Banishing the loathsome CNN/Fox two-headed beast was not an issue because I stopped watching TV back in the 1980s when Diane left Cheers. I did everything I could to decouple from the 24-hour news cycle, including relegating directly to the trash all of the “Have you seen this outrage? Pass it on!” emails that used to fill my inbox. I unsubscribed from all the echo chambers I’d come to frequent. I did all of this cold turkey over the space of a few days.
It took a few weeks for the fog in my head to clear. As light and fresh air started pouring in, I began examining the quality of my own life and stopped spending time and energy worrying about everyone else’s. Though I am a sixty-five-year-old Baby Boomer that had somehow never tried meditating, I started practicing daily mindful meditation. I haven’t found anything magical yet, but it’s been helpful getting a bit of quiet time every day to hush the incessant voice in my head that spent 25 years suggesting column topics.
I began a course of directed reading mostly centered around history, philosophy, religion, and psychology—all the stuff I missed as an engineering student in college and never had enough time to dig deeply into during my career.