By now I’m sure we’re all getting a bit overwhelmed with the news and the traditional ways in which we consume it.
Newspapers have gone online and our Twitter feeds are now full of the latest breaking headlines, which we see even if we don’t want to.
Everyone will always be talking about the latest story, even before you’ve had a chance to idly tap onto the BBC News App for yourself.
Introducing Hey Charlie
Trying to move away from this all consuming media is Hey Charlie. A friendly news bot who gives you the news and the headlines you want to read about, and misses out those you don’t. Once you’ve downloaded the free app, you simply tell Charlie your name and away you go. He is an algorithm based bot who learns more about you the more you use him. Developed by Laura, Jason and Jim, Hey Charlie is a news app powered by AI, designed with the aim of preventing the ever-so present ‘doom-scrolling’ and instead letting you choose how much and which news headlines you want to know more about, if any at all. You log into the app anonymously and Charlie offers you a brief summation of the news from that day. You can then choose which stories to go more in depth about and which ones to move on from.
As someone who isn’t really interested in any news, but would like to keep abreast of any developing headlines, (after seeing them on Twitter first of course!) it allows me to be kept in the loop but without the need to go doom-scrolling!
There is also the ability to be kept up to date with any of the news stories you read about. Want an update on the P&O Ferries story as it develops? No problem!
I’ve been using Charlie for a couple of days now and can already see that I’ll be using it for the foreseeable future, as I am in complete charge of the news headlines I want more information on, and the ones I don’t.
The more I use Charlie, the more the AI will get to know my habits and be able to give me less of the headlines I’m not interested in and more of the ones I am, instead.
Less Anxiety, More Control
One of the best aspects of Hey Charlie has to be the total control I have over which news headlines I want to read more of and the ones I’m not interested in at all. Sometimes the news can be very overwhelming and can make me want to tune out completely. I know you can go through the day and not even know about what’s happening, but I do think it’s important that I at least have the choice of doing so or not. The Hey Charlie chatbot is friendly and although it’s just a beta version I’m using at the moment, I do feel that he doesn’t judge me when I want to skip over a story and perhaps choose something a little less ‘newsy’ to read at that particular moment in time! According to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey has increasingly found national and global issues, such as politics, public health and climate change are being mentioned alongside personal issues such as money and work as our most significant causes of stress.
It’s important that we ensure our minds are best prepared to manage the stress this 24-hours news cycle has the potential to cause.
Psychologist David Lewis made headlines with his belief that being subjected to increasing amounts of data was affecting our physical health.
He said “We’re often seeing a failure of concentration, a loss of motivation and a loss of morale. We’re seeing greater irritability” and he predicted the information overload was due to get worse in the coming years as the internet grew in size and influence. And boy was he right! Washington DC therapist Steven Stonsy coined the term “headline stress disorder” which, although not a diagnosable condition, is an expression he used to describe his clients’ experience of struggling under the 24-hour news cycle effects. Others have referred to it as “news anxiety”. Whilst we cannot control the amount of information that’s shared around us, we can control our relationship with it.
There are numerous ways in which we can manage news anxiety, which are grounded in mindfulness, including some which were issued by the American Psychological Association due to concerns about election stress, some of the headlines were:
Avoid dwelling on things we can’t change – imagining worse case scenarios during times of uncertainty yet are unable to do anything to impact the outcome, by breaking this habit we can take control of our minds
Focus on what is within our control – limit media consumption if it’s causing stress. Give yourself a break from the news and instead choose a specific tie to catch up on world events - for example using Hey Charlie during your commute!
Channel concerns to make a difference on issues we care about – By engaging in community or charity work, we can turn our concerns into positive actions.
Stay active and socially connected – Information overload can be reduced by releasing energy through exercise and stress can be alleviated by talking to a friend.
Tune out if we want to – It is often our relationship with something that determines our mood, rather than the thing itself. How much we engage with the news is up to us. So if engaging with the headlines is proving detrimental to our own mental health, we can always choose to tune out or least limit how much news we are absorbing.
By taking actions and putting in place steps like these when we feel stress starting to appear, we can prepare the mind to make the best decisions when challenged by the inevitable stressors we face in our day to day lives.
My Final Thoughts
So the question is, do I recommend Hey Charlie as an alternative way to read the news? One hundred percent!
I love the interactive-ness of it, how easy it is to navigate and how with the chatbot (Charlie) I still have power of which stories to read more on and when to say ‘not interested in this story!’. I look forward to Hey Charlie becoming more useful and the AI getting to know me better so it knows exactly which stories I like reading and which ones I quickly move on from.
I also like how I now have the choice over whether or not to read the headlines and hopefully avoiding news anxiety. Would you download Hey Charlie? Are you avoiding the news more often now than previously? Sarah xoxoxo