The Media Tedium: How can I stay focused when the world news is so horrible?
When you are up all night finishing that essay at the last minute, you probably spend most of the seconds of that minute checking Facebook posts and news updates. We catch up on the news daily, but do not always realize the effect it might be having on us. The biggest effect is that it convinces us the world is an awful place.
We seem to live in troubling times. It is too late to stop the damage of the Earth’s raising temperatures. Terrorist attacks and mass shootings show up on our news feeds on a daily basis. How can that essay possibly get done when the world is falling to pieces?
It is important to remember that the threat of doomsday is nothing new. From talk of the Rapture in Ancient Rome, to the threat of December 21, 2012 in recent times, the end of the world seems to be upon us again and again. It is almost like we enjoy it. For religious people, there is a sense of relief from knowing that God will take care of problems that seem beyond our control. For many, the idea of knowing when the world will end and getting prepared gives us a sense of comfort and satisfaction. It makes sense that the news would want to populate its stories with ideas that make us feel good. Yet these stories lead to the other problem: They convince us that individuals are powerless.
There is a great sense of despondency when watching war after war, or political battle after battle. Yet if we narrow our scope, we tend to see the world in a positive way. People generally see their neighbours as friendly, and we feel like we have a great impact on the lives of our family and friends. Even their negative behavior can be analyzed and we can understand why they might do hurtful things.
When that scope is widened, we get the horrors of war and the suffering of poorer countries. We do not see the impact of individuals. The behavior of people becomes generalized and not analyzed. Yet the grand scale of things is really just a giant group of individuals like you and me. It is a giant group of friendly neighbours and individual impacts that all add up. Without those seemingly tiny things, there would be no grand scale.
Ultimately, the news might try to be objective, but it is important to remember that everything is objective. There is no way around it. We are viewing life from our own perspective, filled with all our little biases. The news is not some magical entity outside of that truth. The news is a business, and we are the customers. That does not mean it is all a lie, but sensationalism is good for business.
News can be good and bad. The good news is that the world is not going to end. The bad news is you still have to finish that essay.
Pappas, Stephanie. The Draw of Doomsday: Why People Look Forward to the End.
Singal, Jesse. What All This Bad News Is Doing to Us.