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My New Diet Involves Cutting Out the Violence

It took stubbing my toe to realize how overwhelmed I was.

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Illustration of historical figures on phones

Metro by Rubicon1

The first time I consciously stepped back from the media was 14 years ago, at the start of the second Gulf War. The media buildup had begun after 9/11. Upset by the way violence led to more violence, I became active in the peace movement—and I became obsessed with the news. On March 20, 2003, the day the war in Iraq officially started, I stubbed my toe and, much to my surprise, burst out crying. I had been so distracted by the news that I wasn’t able to pay attention to where I was walking. And though I had felt emotion building up in me for days, months, years around the lead-up to the war, it had taken walking into a chair leg to fully access and release the feelings. It was as if the proverbial dam had burst. As I cried, it occurred to me that though the news so often is about extreme violence and suffering, rarely are we expected to cry over it. There is an emotional dissociation that occurs when we consume media. I cried in part because I had gradually become so overwhelmed that I was hurting myself. After that day, I rethought my engagement with the news. I wanted to consume more …

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