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What happened when I quit the news for a week

What a week not to get any news alerts.

It was Tuesday afternoon and I had no idea that Trump had lashed out at Dr. Ford or that Bill Cosby had been sentenced to prison. I was oblivious to the play-by-play news of the day and it was blissful.

If you know anything about me you’ll know that I’m kinda obsessed with news alerts (obsessed, annoyed, irritated — take your pick). So it might be surprising that I didn’t get a single news alert last week despite having more 20 news apps on my phone.

Well, I didn’t plan it. Last weekend, I had purchased a new phone. I had restored my phone using iCloud, installing all my apps including all my news apps. But what I didn’t do was go back into those apps and approve notifications. And it wasn’t until Tuesday that I realized I wasn’t getting news alerts.

The reason I have so many news alerts is part FOMO and part curiosity. I am always monitoring how different news outlets use (and abuse) news alerts. It’s a game I play with myself to see how frustrated I get when a news outlet sends me a completely useless and non-news alert.

But when I realized I went an entire day without a single news alert, I think I cured myself of the FOMO part. It’s like when you’re on Twitter, you feel like you need to keep up with every tiny bit of breaking news and analysis but when you’re off and living in the real world, you are reminded you can actually live without that constant flow of news and voices.

It was Tuesday when I decided to quit breaking news cold turkey. I went and turned off tweet alerts from Trump and the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman (does she ever sleep?).

It felt great not having my phone buzz with every twist and turn of the day’s news. I found out about the Cosby news from a coworker. I got the gist of the Kavanaugh story from NPR and The Daily podcast in the morning getting ready for the day.

During this time, I tried to limit my time on Twitter (I didn’t use Tweetdeck during work) and Facebook (which is terrible for breaking news anyways).

What does constantly being plugged in really do for me? Do I really need to know every headline coming the The Washington Post or the New York Times or Fox News? Do I really need to know the every bit of news as it breaks?

When the week was over, I didn’t feel like a Luddite, completely disconnected from the modern world. I’m sure I missed a headline or two but I asked myself, “so what?”

With my little experiment over, I’m sure I’ll ease my way into turning on my news alerts but now I know I can live without them.

If you ask me, breaking news notifications are broken. In a desperate effort, publishers everywhere are guilty of abusing them to push more and more non-breaking news to users. They are increasingly used as another strategy to get eyeballs on stories. I have some ideas on how to solve this problem, which I call push pollution. If you’re curious about updates on this, add your email here and I’ll notify you when I have something to announce.

The time I met Sen. John McCain