When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Enjoy unlimited access to quality journalism.

Limited time offer

Get your 30-day free trial!
Sources

How A Road Trip And YouTube Saved Me From A Bad TV News Habit

Watching the nightly news on television was a recipe for unhappiness. It's just one lesson from two years on the road in Europe, even though the depressing headlines will follow you through other channels.

The author having dinner inside her camper van.
The author having dinner inside her camper van.
Anne Sophie Goninet

In 2018, I set off with my partner in our camper van on a road trip across Europe that would wind up lasting more than two years. The experience has, not surprisingly, changed us in many ways: from how we think about bigger questions of work and life, but also our daily habits. For one thing, it has ended our attachment to television — but not for the reasons you might think.

Before beginning the van life, in our Nissan Primastar nicknamed Foxy, we lived in an apartment and had a nightly rendezvous of watching the news on TV while eating dinner. Most of the time, those 30 minutes left us, well … depressed. Even before COVID, the news mainly revolved around bleak events and bad politicians.

Consuming this regular dose of current events, relayed not just by television but also our smartphones, was draining us, making us feel pessimistic about the future of society or the fate of the planet, blasés about politics, etc. But we didn't really realize that back then. It was only when we left on our trip that we felt the weight of all of this slowly lifting.

During our travels, we made a conscious decision to cut ourselves off from the news world. We removed the pop-up notifications on our smartphones and stopped watching live feeds about current events. Instead we chose to focus on learning more about the history, the language and the culture of the countries we were visiting.

This was bound to redirect us toward YouTube, so much so that eventually, our smartphones became our new televisions.

The platform allowed us to access content from around the world, much more than TV.

For years, YouTube had been a place to watch funny and weird videos, from a sneezing baby panda to that guy in awe of a double rainbow. But the platform has evolved since, and publishing videos there has become a full time job for an array of "YouTubers' and "content creators."

On YouTube, we found videos about topics we were really interested in, from a fellow French "vanlifer" sharing his experiences to documentaries about tiny houses around the world. We also discovered creators specialized in niche topics, from the restoration of ancient rusty objects to explaining the names of places and people or a funny show specialized in maps — topics that would probably never be broadcasted on traditional television channels. As people who are very interested in other cultures and languages, we felt the platform was also allowing us to access content from around the world, much more than TV.

Youtube_smartphone

On YouTube, we found videos about topics we were really interested in. — Photo: Hello I'm Nik

Now that we are back in one place (our van trip ended just three months before the first COVID lockdown in France), we are also watching the news again — although in a different way: opting to go directly to videos from websites like Vox, Le Monde or The New York Times, which, rather than reacting to what we call l'actu chaude (breaking news) take news item and dissect it, analyze it, with cool graphics and designs that make it pop out from the screen.

We felt we just couldn't go back to our old habits.

Contrary to a limited two-minute segment on TV, the videos allow the journalists to develop the item and its content with more nuance. But the big difference with our old TV habits is also that you can choose to click on what you want, by the topic.

Just like French philosopher Gaspard Koenig, who cut himself completely from the news during one summer while traveling on horseback across Europe, when we came back from our trip, we felt we just couldn't go back to our old habits. "I tried to pick up the news feed, but after such a long period of time away from it, I wasn't able to absorb such large quantities," Koenig wrote in Les Echos, wondering "do we really need all this information?"

For us the answer is clearly no. And ever since we stopped trying to catch up with the frenetic pace of news channels, we feel much better. Maybe we should have listened to what Morrissey says in his song "Spent the Day in Bed": "Stop watching the news / Because the news contrives to frighten you / To make you feel small and alone / To make you feel that your mind isn't your own."

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest