Moderate & Modulate

These days, I make part of my living doing news analysis.

In practice, this means spending a lot of time reading: the news, but also all the stuff that informs and becomes the news, including history books, research papers, tweets from informed people, and ultra-niche newsletters.

I enjoy my work: the process of cobbling together context from dispersed bits of information is intellectually rewarding. But it requires that I stay plugged in to what’s happening across many spheres of interest, and when the world is particularly tumultuous, that can be draining.

This has been true, to some degree, ever since I started doing this kind of work over four years ago. But that reality has been amplified this past half-year or so as big-picture news stories became in-person realities for so many of us—the scale of suffering increasing in pitch and duration, and the foundations of day-to-day life for people around the world beginning to show their fragility and vulnerability.

It’s been tense. It’s been stressful. At times, this facet of my generally pleasant and interesting work has been more burden than boon.

I’ve found it useful, during this period, to be especially careful with my inputs—in terms of what they contain and in terms of their quantity and duration.

I’ve moderated my informational intake by spending more focused time with the news: doing my best, as always, to ensure that I’m getting good, reliable information, but also absorbing it in more concise, refined doses, rather than indulging throughout the day.

It’s still important to know what’s happening in the world, after all, because that knowledge informs our understanding of our context and thus, our actions. But that doesn’t mean we need to stew in this kind of data from sun up to sun down.

I’ve also gotten better at modulating my informational flow, weaving news, creative endeavors, correspondence, and non-productive sorts of “work” into a more diverse, daily tapestry.

This is something I’ve always tried to do, but of late I’ve made a more conscious effort to ensure I don’t become too mono-focused on one type of engagement for too long; an adjustment that seems to help me healthily absorb not-pleasant-but-important information because I’m less likely to segue from research to doomscrolling when I chase my news consumption with beautiful literature, an interesting film, or an engaging game with friends.

The theory here is that I don’t want to extricate myself from the world, ignoring the important things that are happening and thus not participating in potential solutions, but I also don’t want to drain my battery so that when the opportunity to contribute arrives, I’m too wiped out to do anything about it.

More intentional informational imbibement and regularly mixing the hard realities with other sorts of experiences (reading books, listening to music, watching films, talking to friends and family, playing games, making art for the fun of it) has helped me maintain a semi-reliable sense of stability, fulfillment, and progress, despite the sometimes disquieting nature of my work.

If you found some value in this essay, and if you’re in the financial position to do so, consider supporting my work by buying me a coffee.

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