No news is good news, and good news is no news.
I particularly noticed this truth when my Internet browser home page overlapped its endless COVID coverage with news items about “murder hornets,” presumably realizing that people were starting to yawn over the COVID thing. Call me a cynic, but fearmongering is the time-honoured way to draw eyeballs and get clicks and pay journalists’ bills. Hence the reason good news is no news.
The murder hornets didn’t get much traction, I noticed. Maybe because most of us are onto the media and its tactics. Applying an emotion-laden modifier like “murder” to an insect leaves us hardened media-sceptics only shrugging and eye-rolling. However, the Nova Scotia shootings and more recently the police brutality in the case of George Floyd and the resulting rioting, looting, and violence certainly grabbed everyone’s attention.
Do you ever get the feeling that we’re eternally moving from one crisis to another, never seeing any resolutions to any of them? Perhaps we never see any resolutions because we just don’t see them. Like squirrels with attention deficit on energy drinks, we’re too busy soaring from one crisis-story to the next to the next to the next to pause long enough on one to see what became of the last one.
Some of us are squirrels. Maybe another animal analogy would suit others better: cattle. Being relentlessly herded along by cattle prods into information overload against our wills. I think I’m alternately the squirrel and the bovine in turns. Sometimes I choose the information overload willingly; sometimes reluctantly. But addiction drives me along willingly or otherwise.
I don’t remember when I became a full-blown current-events junkie, but I’m pretty much mainlining these days. YouTube commentary is my drug of choice, but I’ll also ingest news stories on my Internet browser home page if they look enticing, and Facebook friends’ posts in my feed unavoidably keep me “in the know.”
For some one with no TV who never buys newspapers or news magazines, I still find I know far too much about what’s going on “out there.” Do I need to know all I know? I don’t think so. But I don’t know how to stop.
Intentionally, I never used to watch the news. I didn’t see the point. It was never good news. It would only make me unhappy, and there was never anything I could do about it, anyway.
I wasn’t aware of it happening, but somewhere along the way, I developed a perverse taste for all the bad news. I question if I’m better off for it. I question this modern phenomenon of globalized nosey-parkering. We barely know our next-door-neighbours’ names but are very familiar with the latest viral video of the latest public meltdown or adult tantruming.
The problem is, it’s entertaining. I can’t watch fiction shows anymore. Bah! Made-up stories! Reality is far more attention-consuming because, for one thing … it’s real!
But is it? Is it real? All the distant occurrences I fill my head with but still somehow keep at a distance? Are they real? To me, I mean?
There’s such a thing as compassion fatigue. Too much bad news leaves us blase` to all the bad news.
I think I have crisis fatigue. I think I probably shouldn’t be feeding my need to be entertained and mentally stimulated by one crisis after another. Something wrong there!
I excuse my addiction under the guise of “needing to be informed.” I want to know what’s going on in the world, don’t I? Yes. I do. To an extent. But how much is too much? How much is necessary? How much is unhealthy?
I come from the standpoint of a worldview that values truth over comfort. It teaches, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” But this teaching never implies that all truth needs to be known. All truth does not need to be known. At least not by me. All truth is not possible to be know. At least not by me. But I do want to know the truth that I need to know or that I should know, however unpleasant.
It’s a quandary I ponder sometimes. How much information do I need to have, and what should I do with it once I have it? I used to avoid the news because it was all bad, and there was nothing I could do about it, anyway, but I’ve started to think that maybe there is something I can do about some of the bad news. And I can’t do it if I don’t know the bad news.
I can have a viewpoint. I can occasionally voice my viewpoint. That’s about it! That’s about all I can do about all the bad news I can do anything about. Sometimes, I can do something more concrete, like donate to a cause, volunteer my time, etc. But most often, the only thing I can do is hold a viewpoint and sometimes voice it. Is there any value in holding a viewpoint and voicing it? I suppose it depends on the viewpoint.
I have come to realize that ideas are the most powerful tools or weapons we can get our hands on. Every decision begins with a belief. Every intentional action grows out of an idea that someone has decided to believe–to hold to be true. It’s probably the reason I’ve always been so fascinated with the world of ideas. I’ve seen their power.
So I suppose that’s where I try to find some balance in my information overload and crisis fatigue. If I’m keeping informed just for the sake of entertainment–just staving off boredom–I should probably go back to my old ostrich stance. But if I’m interacting with facts for the sake of interacting with truth, there is some value to staying informed. Our ideas influence others’ ideas. Inevitably. We influence each other. Unavoidably. I’d like to be an influence toward the truth. Wherever it lies. But that will require some level of keeping myself informed. Just maybe not the squirrel-with-ADD-on-Red-Bull level.