The mass media vs. the writer’s brain

At the beginning of 2020, I decided that I would stop reading the news. It was one of my goals. Instead I would read books. My decision was prompted by the realisation that knowing the news each day did not contribute to my wellbeing in any way. It wasted valuable time I could be writing or reading. And if we’re honest with ourselves, the news is mostly sensationalist crap!

What a year to make that decision, huh? Naturally my goal failed. The mass media in 2020 was the perfect case study in creating suspense. What will the numbers be today? What new discovery will science make? What are the (ever-changing) chances of me or those I love dying? Will the vaccines even work? What does everyone on reddit think about it? The mass media had us on the edge of our anxiety-induced-sweat-soaked seats!

Only, I discovered that my memory and my concentration were not so great. Those are fairly critical attributes for any writer. I wondered if it was the heightened stress. I read some books. Well, I didn’t read them so much as kind of skimmed them because I couldn’t concentrate long enough to read deeply. I turned to neuroscience.

Long story short, the internet (which, let’s face it, is the way we all now engage with the mass media — unless you’re like my friend who lives on a farm and still handwrites her invoices and files the carbon copies in manila folders like it’s the 70s) is changing our brains to the point we can no longer concentrate or remember things. Huh.

It won’t surprise you that I’ve re-pledged my commitment to say goodbye to not just the news, but the whole of the mass media. I’m doubling down on physical books. And I’m doing my best to stop checking my email every ten minutes. It’s been a month, and already my writing is progressing quicker and I’ve finished all of the books I started. Hopefully I’ll re-train my brain to the point my memory will improve too.

The best thing: if something really important happens that I absolutely need to know about, another human being will tell me. Like in the 70s.