Cathy Rentzenbrink on the dangers of obsessing over the newsby Cathy Rentzenbrink / August 20, 2018 / Leave a comment
When I was growing up I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents. He was a bus driver and she was a typist. They thought it part of their civic duty to be informed so every night they watched the evening news. It always ended with a light-hearted “and finally,” before they turned off the television and went to bed.
That last bit is hard to do in the modern world. In an era of multiple news channels and social media how do we ever find an off switch? And how do we re-create our own “and finally” that makes us feel a little better about the world before we go to sleep?
A friend of mine is cross that he doesn’t fall asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. He spends his evening watching news programmes on the bounce and scrolling through Twitter and emails on his phone.
When he turns in for the night, he puts the phone on his bedside table. He can’t turn it off because he uses it as an alarm clock. After a few minutes of trying to fall asleep he gets bored and picks the phone up again for another round of checking. Why is he surprised that this is not a recipe for a good night’s sleep?
The news is depressing
What effect does this hyper-connectivity have on us? There used to be an idea that anyone who said that the news was depressing didn’t know what depression was. I no longer think this is true. When I look back at turbulent times in my own life I now see the over consumption of news—the trial of Fred and Rosemary West, 9/11, the nuclear floods in Japan—played a role in my struggle.
Perhaps this is because to stay sane I have to maintain a faith in humanity, which is difficult to do when watching news channels compete with each other in the aftermath of a global disaster.
It’s also to do with the way news plays with our perspective on the world. Our logical mind knows that we are being shown the extraordinary, but at a more primal level it is hard not to start seeing risk everywhere, which means it is hard not to succumb to…