Army 101 / Coping mechanisms / Deployment

Ignorance is 140 characters of bliss: how to cope with news headlines during deployments

During Jonathan’s first deployment, I spent long morning train rides into work behind the greasy pages of a newspaper. I flipped every day through the filmy sections, scanning the headlines and searching for content to keep me awake after 40 miles of 5:30am rush hour traffic with my face smashed into the steering wheel.

I don’t miss that commute.

Reading the newspaper was engrained in my everyday routine. I even grew up with an appreciation for that routine; early home videos shot by my parents feature 10-minute intros about the current political climate and international goings-ons. (Followed by a much more excruciating 10 minutes of my nearly-tone-deaf renditions of whatever Disney songs I’d just learned. If you ever want to hear about the 1990 opinion of George Bush Sr. to Californians with an encore of “A Whole New World” sung by a child in pink stirrup leggings,Ā grab a VCR and I’ll send you the tape.)

And although I was aware by the time Jonathan’s first deployment rolled around that bad news is a big part of the news, I was unprepared for the change in attitude I’d need for my daily newspaper reads. My sleepy rush hour brain suddenly found itself jolted by headlines like “3 dead in bombing,” and phrases like “Afghan border,” which had hardly phased me in the past. Long story short, it got to the point where, flipping through pages, there could be a wedding announcement for a woman named Amy, and I would instantly think that “Amy” said “Army,” and then I would realize it had been four days since I’d heard from Jonathan, and maybe this is an article about army casualties and maybe he is dead.

It didn’t take long for me to stop reading the newspaper altogether.

This solved an immediate part of the problem (the part where I was bat-shit crazy on public transportation), but it took a while to develop a system that kept me up to date on headlines, but still (arguably) sane. The solution I’ve landed on is a a magical tab in my internet browser that allows me to selectively follow news sources and headlines, and that I keep sandwiched between my other social media site tabs, so that my friends and my cookie recipes are always at a close escape if needed.

Social media tabs

That little Twitter bird icon looks so peaceful. No terrible news can come from a peaceful little blue bird, RIGHT, INTERNET?

There is, of course, no fool-proof way to prevent specific unhappy headlines when you still want to be up to date with major headlines (which are also often unhappy). Reality (even on the internet) is not always the shining cherubic baby sun and rolling green hills on the set of a Teletubbies episode. An ignorance-is-bliss approach may work well for some people (I tried this for a while after giving up my morning newspaper read, and it wasn’t a perfect fit), but I’ve tried to create my own brand of that approach, which I can loosely call selective-ignorance-with-dashes-of-reality-plus-funny-animal-pictures-and-one-liners-about-alcohol. I’m working on shortening it.

On the bad days, it’s still those terrifying 140-character headlines that catch my eye first, and allow my brain to linger in its panic before my Twitter feed is consumed with distracting Instagram pictures of my friends’ sandwiches.

On the bad days, a quick scroll through Tweets can look like this:

Twitter news

I trusted you, little blue Twitter bird; I TRUSTED YOU.

There has been a lot of tragedy in the news lately. It has not just been military families simultaneously glued to and dreading the headlines, trying to cope with devastation, and uncertainty, and fear. There can be as many unique coping strategies as there are unique people; with every national tragedy, I am in renewed awe at the way people can come together for support, and rebuild through resilience. It is a good reminder that, whatever difficult times we go through (whether they are personal, or on a much larger scale), the pain and the stress is real, and we can overcome it with help, and with time, and with persistence.

There is a wide network out there to help us cope; the social media community for military is particularly strong. At least once a day, Real Warriors Tweets out its crisis helpline, and my feed is constantly filled with the organization’s other tips for military families in transition. For every terrifying headline, there is an equal and opposite resource out there (if you’ve clicked the follow button for it) that will remind you of the positives; I’m still finding my groove and learning to follow those sources that fit my specific brand of coping, but I trust the fabulous growth of social media to continue to open new doors for these resources, both military and otherwise.

But, a lot of the time, those “resources” exist freely on Twitter by Tweeters who aren’t necessarily trying to be resources. Which is why, on good days, my Twitter feed will instead look like this.

Twitter distractions

P.S. I just Google Imaged “animals sneezing.” I was not disappointed with the results.

22 thoughts on “Ignorance is 140 characters of bliss: how to cope with news headlines during deployments

  1. Oh and when you try to be completely ignorant (don’t read the paper, home page set to cuteness and I don’t have TV) people stop you or call you or text you and say, “Did you hear? What do you think? Have you heard from him? What does he think?” My answer, “Well now I have. I don’t think anymore. I hear from him. He thinks he wants to come home and he is doing his job.” Blah. And then there are amazing people like you who make you smile and laugh and in my head i just flick off everyone who says stupid things šŸ™‚ And make the husband laugh when I tell him.

    • Luckily I’m not in a military environment right now, so the reminders are not as constant for me; I feel like when I move to my first army town I’m going to have to get some industrial strength ear plugs and a pair of rose-colored glasses. Maybe a funny pet? Turtles are pretty funny. Game plan.

  2. The Vintage Virginia picture should be an inspirational poster.

    Also, The Bloggess is right. I’ve used that excuse many times, and it’s always true.

      • No need for a follow-up Tweet. That said it all! I don’t usually have a follow-up for that comment, and my guy friends don’t generally ask for one either.

  3. I definitely follow the ignorance is bliss method… I figure if news is big enough that I should know, I will. I haven’t missed anything monumental yet–that I know of, hehe. I pass CNN on the big screens for a few moments when I pay for my lunch, I listen to talk (gossip) radio, and I have people on my friend feed who watch news, so I get more than enough.

    When you were doing the ignorance is bliss mode, did you actively seek to hide from news–or did you just stop actively pursuing news? Maybe it would work to just let the news come to you.

    • Honestly, I’ve dabbled in and out of all forms of ignorance. I found the “LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU” method of telling people I didn’t want the headlines discussed around me got a little irritating–though I’m sure there’s a much more tactful way to do it than physically shoving your fingers into your ears and generally being an asshole like I did. I think this is a real different strokes for different folks issue, but it sounds like the “let the news come to you” is a popular method that I’ll be trying out in the future.

  4. I used to feel like this incredible intellectual because I read the news everyday. These days, I struggle to open up those “CNN” and “NY Times” tabs on my Firefox page. It’s system overload with all the stories of death and disease and terror and poverty. I’d really rather just look at pictures of cute puppies, thank you very much. Hopefully, social media continues to expand the channels of available support. And of cute puppies šŸ™‚

  5. Pingback: Diaries of a DLI wife: a typical Saturday night | Army Pants And Flip Flops

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