Meet the people who are keeping bad, toxic news at bay for the sake of their mental well-being

Many are happy escaping the information overload and shunning every kind of negative report. Some focus on selective reading and some have learnt how not to be emotionally affected by news, the coping mechanisms to stay sane in testing times

Dinesh RahejaUpdated: Sunday, August 29, 2021, 01:37 PM IST
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Nandita Puri |

Is reading newspapers filled with the latest updates on hot-button issues such as wars, political subterfuges, rapes and murders detrimental to our well-being? Is watching TV with its 24x7 breathless reporting, breaking news and heated debates toxic to our mental health? With the explosion of the Information Age, our senses are in danger of being impinged by a constant feed of disturbing news.

There is an increasing tribe of people who have decided to distance themselves from the endless cycles of negative and violent news and it seems to be working for them.

Padmini Mirchandani, publisher at Pictor Publishing and head of publishing at Engage Learning, says, “I am part of a WhatsApp group called The Oval Maidaan, and just this morning I woke up to a barrage of Taliban-related posts. It’s terrible to wake up to it. But one of the members said, ‘No more Taliban-related posts please.’ Fortunately, the others agreed.”

Padmini Mirchandani

Padmini Mirchandani |

The publishing maven follows a few simple principles to avoid feeling stressed by the news. Mirchandani says, “I don’t avoid news altogether – but I read only the headlines. If something is uplifting or relevant, I read it in detail.” She says that it is difficult to escape the news altogether because WhatsApp and Twitter are the new newspapers. She keeps herself abreast by reading the Sunday papers and by scanning through news updates on YouTube. But TV news is anathema for Mirchandani at night. “I make sure I never watch the news before sleeping.”

Retired chartered accountant Saswati Gupta has a spiritual way of bypassing negative news. Before the pandemic, she used to read a leading newspaper. “Now, I don’t read newspapers or watch TV news at all. I am not interested in knowing about politics; perhaps, because I think the truth is often camouflaged. I am into the spiritual world and try to be away from the material world as far as possible.”

Saswati Gupta

Saswati Gupta |

Now a devotee at ISKCON, Juhu, Gupta says, “Even when I do look at the headlines, I don’t read about murders, suicides and other disturbing news. I try to stay away from anything negative. I am in my own beautiful world.”

Author Nandita Puri also steers clear of newspapers. She says, “I stopped reading newspapers long ago. I prefer gossip with friends to unreliable and toxic news. But I am too lazy to cancel my subscriptions to half-a-dozen papers so I give them to my paowala to wrap bread.”

Parul Bhatia, a practising lawyer, is at the other end of the spectrum. She begins her day with reading newspapers, which provide her succour in the mornings and help her unwind at night. Post dinner, she sits in an armchair and reads newspaper columns.

Parul Bhatia

Parul Bhatia |

Bhatia says she has learnt how not to let herself be emotionally affected by the news. “News about rapes, murders, suicides, politics, wars, terrorism and accidents disturb me for a while, but then it’s like water off a duck’s back. I don’t allow it to linger in my mind.”

On being asked why people are drawn to news that are dark and distressing, Mirchandani says, “There is a constant Mahabharata raging inside all of us between good and evil. For my entertainment, I too veer towards the dark side. I love psychological thrillers, series on serial killers, science fiction and the unknown. Chick flicks don’t do anything for me.”

While Bhatia says she would definitely be interested in a happy newspaper, Gupta says, “I wouldn’t even read a happy newspaper because I feel I am 56 and have very little time. I would rather spend as much time as I can on reading the Bhagwad Gita, the Srimad Bhagvatam and books written by Srila Prabhupada. I was happy leading an uncomplicated life in my childhood, and I am happy now.”

Consulting psychiatrist Ashit Seth, who has 50 years of experience, says constantly reading and watching negative news can prove to be toxic.

“I read newspapers too but I am selective, and I watch only entertainment fare on TV. We are being bombarded daily with news of Covid-19 and it is bound to affect us. Covid awareness is one thing, Covid phobia is another. I had a patient who was slightly depressed but after the overdose of Covid news, he became more depressed. If there is one sick member in the family, it affects everyone. We have to remember that negativity too can be contagious.”

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