Photograph by Katherine Taylor.

How do you maintain your sanity — and avoid apathy — in the face of a relentlessly negative news cycle?


That’s the focus of this interview with whipsmart journalist Ann Friedman, who writes regularly about politics, feminism, and activism for New York magazine and the LA Times in addition to co-hosting the popular current events podcast Call Your Girlfriend.

We talk about Ann’s “garbage in, garbage out” approach to news consumption, why it’s a bad idea to try to process the headlines in real time, and how the Twitter “hive mind” can actually be a good thing.

Plus, what the heck you can do about anxiety-inducing news notifications and family members who’ve turned into glassy-eyed cable news zombies.

Key takeaways from the conversation:

  • How to deal with the uniquely panicky sensation you get when you’ve consumed too much news via social media
  • Strategies for staying on top of the news without feeling like you have to be absorbing everything in “real time”
  • How to not get sucked into news flare-ups on social media (especially if being on social media is integral to your job duties)
  • Why you should consider only giving real humans access to interrupt your daily rhythms through push notifications
  • The benefits of Twitter and other social media platforms for drawing attention to “repeated narratives”

Favorite Quotes

“I get no notifications on my phone. The only notifications I get are text messages and phone calls. If something is popping up on my phone, it’s a real human being that wants to talk to me… I see some appalling push notification screenshots when I’m doing my Twitter scroll, where I’m like, ‘Thank god I have not allowed you access into my day-to-day.’”

“If I sit back and think about, ‘What did I do today?’ I never include ‘tweeted.’ I might be like, ‘Called three members of Congress, did some research for an article, maybe read the entire A section of the newspaper.’ Those things are things I did today, but it’s pretty rare that I would think of contributing on social media as an accomplishment.”

“Especially for writers, what you write is naturally informed by what you are reading. If you’re only reading very quick hit or snarky internet things, it’s very difficult to write in a way that feels like it’s going to last more than 24 hours.”

Resources

A quick list of the items and strategies that came up during our conversation:

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