Why I Stopped Buying Newspapers

I was the news explainer in my friend’s group.

I took it as a mission to understand current events, politics, issues, science, and other topics published in the dailies. I then took great joy in explaining to others what I learnt. It made me feel like a teacher. I felt like I was doing a service.

People do not have the time to read newspapers in detail or view online debates or discussions nowadays. They are not interested in digging deep because it takes a lot of time. But I was! I used to go through all news portals.

I hoped my explainers would aid busy friends in making better decisions and voicing better thoughts.

None of that happened.

It was a stark realization that no number of facts can change someone’s thinking if they are adamant on sticking to their beliefs.

Then I did the unimaginable. I stopped buying newspapers.

One fine day, after reading another mentally distressing news article, I knew it was time to let go. Why pay for something that mentally drains you? We pay therapists to help us, and then we pay to get our daily dose of pessimism from the papers.

A never-ending cycle.

Negativity sells. So you cannot really blame the papers. You will never see happy news printed in big, bold font types on the front page. That’s reserved for the shockers because that is the type of news that sells.

It is human psychology to drift towards things that are infuriating, depressing, triggering. Have you noticed how our mind suddenly decides it’s time to worry about something when we are in a state of bliss? It will rewind to the past and remind you of all the dreadful things. Or it will flash forward to the future and nudge you to start feeling concerned for yourself.

Our brain is just not wired to be in a state of joy 24/7.

Letting go of newspapers was hard. But I realized, if I paid for it, I would keep pushing myself to read it whether I wanted to or not – only because I did not want my money to go to waste.

I understood I wasn’t really reading the papers to enlighten myself of worldly matters, rather I was subjecting myself to it because I subscribed to it. It felt like a chore. It is like paying and getting a gym membership. Shelling out cash is a big motivator to get things done.

How did I feel when I stopped buying newspapers:

  • A bit lost at first and a lot of doubt “How am I going to survive without knowing everything in the world in-depth?
  • I slowly started getting used to it.
  • I realized I could live without reading every bit of news out there.
  • The important news always found its way to me – through social media, people around me, and google alerts set for the news type I wanted to receive.
  • Finally, a peace of mind.

I felt less cranky about things, less triggered when I let go of newspapers. The publishers send emails, messages with discount codes for annual subscriptions to lure me back in. I am not yet ready to make that commitment. I am not yet ready to sacrifice my uncluttered mind. I feel free, calm and composed.

Rape, deaths, racism, sexism are all important topics to cover. To read about them every day, though, is emotionally disturbing for someone sensitive like me. Speak up when you have to – your voice counts. But also know it is important to take breaks. If you find yourself getting agitated very often and it is affecting your relationships, it is time to cut off from the negatives. Your mental health should hold precedence over everything else including negative newspapers.

Breathe in the good shit.

Breathe out the bullshit.

An Ode to Celebrating Yourself in All Body Sizes

Photo by Anna Shvets

An Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) worker visited me today. She wanted to check if I took both my COVID-19 vaccination doses. I am incredibly thankful that activists in India are checking on us. A question she asked surprised me, however.

Did you lose weight?

A person whom I met once around 6 months ago remembered how I looked. It does not matter if you are plus-sized or a size zero; people remember your body size. It is a part of you.

She told me my face looked “fuller” before, hinting that she preferred my chubby cheeks.

Did you gain weight?

This question is what I got asked 6 months before by family, friends, relatives, even small kids. You would think kids do not care about body size, but there they are, commenting about how much weight you have gained.

They told me my face looked too “full,” hinting they preferred seeing me without my chubby cheeks.

Everywhere you go, people judge you for your body size. No one tells you, “You have the perfect body size.” So it is up to us to deem ourselves perfect in all sizes.

Being body positive means not to let “tags” define or trigger you. It means to accept yourself in all body sizes, whatever it chooses to evolve into tomorrow.

When people say I look thin, I say yes. When people say I have gained weight, I say yes. I am okay with both. They can pass their judgments or statements. It does not matter because I am comfortable with any form my body chooses to be.

Such open questions on weight are not going anywhere, unfortunately. I remember seeing a video by Supriya (@Supaarwoman) on Insta. She said when people call her fat, she tells them, “I am not going to take that as an insult because that’s my body type. You are just saying out loud what my body type is. Why should I be ashamed of my body type?” When you think of it that way, you realize that what she said makes a lot of sense.

When someone simply states your body type (aka “you are fat” or “you are thin”), why consider it as body shaming or an insult? When you take that power away from the perpetrator, and you truly embrace yourself for who you are, you become empowered.

Own your body type. When you do, you become body positive to the fullest degree.

An Ode to Questioning Biases

I have been increasingly questioning my biases lately.

Social Media Bias

How my opinions are largely formed by what the media is showing me. Sometimes, never bothering to look at the “other side.” A kind of blind faith that the news portals will show me only the truth and nothing but the absolute truth.

This belief was shaken up quite a bit when I understood that a lot of times, the media chooses to pick a side and highlight only that part of the story. We never get to know why “the other side” acted the way they did, said the things they did. It is well hidden. We never get to know the full picture. There are times I have made that extra effort to know more.. and have been amazed at how well the media hides bits and pieces of relevant information. The kind of information that wouldn’t have agitated the people so much if it were to be revealed alongside the flustering headline (or at least at the top of the news article). Add to that the social media’s personal opinions, which again, most often than not, do not give the complete picture.

With all this excessive one-sided information, a person who used to feel concerned about the issue in a healthy way before is left extremely agitated, angry and restless in a matter of minutes. The issue won’t leave your head. It stays with you when you sleep, it is the first thing you think of when you wake up. You snap at the drop of a hat, refusing to see any other angles. This keeps happening each time a new issue pops up. Imagine the stress your body has to go through, taking the world’s collective burden on your shoulders. In short, it just messes up your mental health.

I have had to log out of my social media accounts multiple times in the last one year just to calm myself down and to dissociate from all the noise. During such moments I often think, is social media a boon or a bane?

Information Bias

A large number of social media influencers (the ones who review movies) are largely influenced by critics and the media. If the critics say it is a good movie, they will say it is a good movie. If the critics thrash a movie, they will say it is the worst movie of the decade. I was so caught up in this information bias, that I was afraid of saying that I liked a movie that the majority hated. I was also afraid of saying I did not enjoy a movie that the majority liked. Because then, the movie shaming begins. Your taste in movies is questioned.

It is the case with almost anything, not just movies. If the general review of a product is positive or negative, you are expected to have the exact same view. Herd mentality in such cases is encouraged. If you step out of the box, you are questioned.

That was until I got out of that zone and said to myself “You know, I laughed watching this movie. It is funny. It worked for me. Why should I ashamed of something that kept me entertained throughout?” I started being open about liking the movies I really liked (even if they weren’t critically acclaimed) and not liking the movies that I truly did not (even if they were liked by the majority). I was being true to myself and that felt good.

I realized there were more people like me out there, shying away from voicing their true likes/dislikes, when I started getting messages (in private) that they liked/hated the same thing too.

Halo Effect

When you admire a person (it could also be a celebrity, politician or government), you tend to believe that everything the person does is justified – whether good or evil. We refuse to believe they are human after all – prone to mistakes. We forgive and forget. This is a bias I am trying to overcome as well. Trying consciously to notice and acknowledge those errors even if I like the entity very much. To hold them accountable if feelings were hurt, and not to give them the status of a superior being who is incapable of mistakes.

I have been reading up on biases and media bias is something that struck me the most. When you seek more information about something, weirdly enough, you start noticing these little things that you used to ignore before. You become aware of the biases that are now part and parcel of your daily life.

It is a scary thought to reflect on, that you can be manipulated into believing something that is constantly thrown in your face, as if there is no other truth.

An Ode to Feminism and Personality Prints

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

Feminism runs in my family, in parts.

I come from a family of outspoken (sometimes bordering on the line of offensive) women, about whom the men in the house would jokingly warn new entrants to be wary of.

We inherit a chunk of values subconsciously from the ones around us. The early lessons often imparted by family. The few beads of feminism that I took away from mine:

Importance of education and hatred for dowry – I learned from my grandfather, who would tell his daughters “I am ready to sell everything to get you girls a good education” and who would ask prospects to kindly leave if they ever asked for dowry.

Importance of courage, debating, learning, re-learning, and speaking out – I learned from my mother. She has been at the receiving end of many jibes that came her way for raising her daughters to be the feminists that we are. Instead of feeling the burden of everyone’s favorite dialogue “It’s the mother’s fault,” she rose to the challenge and took it as a compliment.

Importance of financial independence – I learned from my aunts, who owing to personal incidents had to depend on themselves to keep their family afloat.

Importance of gender equality – I learned from my dad, who was absolutely fine with doing household chores, cooking, and cleaning. P.S: He used to make the best mutton curry.

Importance of freedom – I learned from my sister, who values her independence more than anything else in this world. Nothing can stop her from pursuing her dreams in life.

We always learn little lessons from everyone around us, without even knowing. When I look back, to think where I got my current ideologies from, these are the people who pop up in my mind. I learned a little bit from each and together they have defined my set of values.

An individual can be unique not just in physical appearance or fingerprints, but even by their “personality print” which is the sum total of all their experiences in life. Next time you feel you are not special, think about it this way. There is literally no one like you – with the same set of values, journey, experiences, understanding. Just like fingerprints, no two personality prints are alike. You are uniquely you. Is there any better reason to celebrate?