Always-on News Can Make Us Anxious
I decided recently that I had too many news apps on my phone. I like news, but I was getting too much of it .... or at least too much bad news. Between CNN, The Guardian, BBC News, RTE, Sky News, Breaking News etc I was getting constant 100 word updates on awful things that are happening or threatening to happen in the world. Of course awful things ARE happening and always have been. Towards the end of the Vietnam War in the early 70's ordinary people began to see images of what was happening in Indochina. Iconic videos of naked Vietnamese children running down a road screaming with napalm burns, or of a Viet Cong insurgent being summarily executed on the street by a general came into our living rooms. What was new in this wasn't the awfullness of war, that was always there, but that far-off wars were coming into our daily awareness and into our living rooms. Since the advent of convenient phone access to the web around 2008 (the year the Iphone 3G arrived) we now hear about every bridge-collapse, flood, riot, coup, cholera outbreak, light-aircraft crash, iceberg break-up, yacht sinking etc that happens anywhere in the world. We don't just hear about it in our living rooms, but on trains, in coffee shops, at work, school, as we wait at the ATM, as we visit the restroom. I found that that level of disaster-awareness was impacting on me. And so earlier this year I decided to pay attention to my hunger for always-on news. Over a period of a few weeks I realized that I wasn't getting a break from anxiety-provoking news from places that I never even knew existed. What got through to me is that the events that were in the news were always there, but now they are in my awareness most of the time. And so I decided to only have a couple of news apps on my phone. I also switched-off news notifications from these apps and I only check news once or twice a day now. The world seems to be coping with my reduced. though still interested, attention to its travails. And my spirit is getting periods to recharge and restore my faith in humanity and good stories.