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No News is Good News

— Filed under: Breaking News, People & Culture, Opinion
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My wife gave birth to our first child a few weeks ago, and I'm writing this after a midnight run to the hospital laboratory with a stool sample, to check if our baby's diarrhea is anything to worry about.

It's not.  Which is good, but I'm wondering if I'm destined to spend the next 18 years on pins and needles, waiting anxiously for diagnoses, rifling through parenting books, and scouring the web for info.  I'm going to need some way to keep from stressing about every little hiccup and cough.

And then it struck me: the news media does this to us too.  It throws impending doom in our faces every day — as if we couldn't imagine it ourselves!  Catastrophe is literally around every corner.  Even innocuous events are spun to their full, ominous potential.  It is really and truly an anxiety-inducing parade of fear, and it's non-stop, 24 hours a day.

What kind of terrible events are on tap at the moment?  Here's a small sampling:

Rolf Dobelli suggests that we eliminate our news intake entirely.  He says it's "misleading", "irrelevant", and "toxic", among other criticisms.  A bit over-the-top, but he does make some good points.  I suppose news overload is one possible reason that Americans are becoming more psychotic.  But wait, stop — even that is alarming!

Sigh.  I need a break.  I'm going to go read the paper.

lloydyspeaks's picture

Desensitization

Desensitization1. To render insensitive or less sensitive.2. Immunology To make (an individual) nonreactive or insensitive to an antigen.3. To make emotionally insensitive or unresponsive, as by long exposure or repeated shocks: I think this word sums up what is probably the case with the news having to become more sensational to produce more of an interest from the readers (News is BIG Business after all..as we've recently found out!)Personally there have been numerous times when I've been drawn into reading an article by the headline, only to tune out half way through reading as I'm uninterested to read the same information churned out again and again.I think the same word applies to parenthood. Once you become more used to being a parent the things that were major before seem less so and you probably have new issues to worry about and then in turn the more these are dealt with the less you worry. (Or is it that i just don't fret enough anymore?..No I'm sure that as your child grows they also become less wary of things that they are used to too.) It's a wonderful and one of the most rewarding things you can do as a human being, I feel. Big Congratulations Kuncen on your new role and I'm sure that the News is now much less depressing..

Kuncen's picture

Thanks!  Certainly the news

Thanks!  Certainly the news events of the world do seem less important when you have a little monkey in your house being cute and diabolical at the same time.  :)  I certainly hope that I worry less over time.

Kuncen

PenyuSepi's picture

wake-up call

Today is the first day in perhaps a year that I've actively sought out a news source, triggered by the tragedy in Norway. I've only kept so distant for the reasons Mr. Dobelli mentions, which I discovered when I started to notice some of the unfortunate effects that consistent news exposure truly has on me, and those around me — among them paranoia, hypochondria, and an alarming, disproportionate level of insecurity, suspicion and fear. This is a terrible sadness, as there are a thousand reasons I'd like to continuously follow the current events of our day, and I have a strong belief in the power and importance of every individual voice that contributes to the debates, discussions, and the great exchange of ideas propelled by the news. This site is one of the best, most conducive places I've seen for this to happen. I believe that we, the voices in this, are the major forces shaping our future, and I learn and grow an incredible amount when I am immersed in this spectacular confluence of minds. But there is no defense I've found to the side-effects from the ways the media likes to present things to us. Just as lloydyspeaks pointed out, being sensational about things is a vital tactic now — becoming more essential every day we join the swirl of headlines and our attention spans shrink away from anything that doesn't grab our eye in half a second.

But all my attempts to avoid the trace amounts of 'toxicity' within the news world certainly hasn't cured me of all my paranoia & obsessive worry regarding my health and the health of others. I fear I'd be far less wise a parent than Kuncen, and I'd have no capacity for self-reflection or anything other than panic in a situation like that. It's far too easy for me to work myself up into thinking, "Oh god, my stomach pains are ulcers, my poor memory episodes are signs of premature aging, my menstrual agony must mean something terrible maybe I'm infertile, and look, my moles are all mutating into cancer." This is, of course, ridiculous. But as Kuncen said, when we're exposed so constantly to the ultimate catastrophic potential of the tiniest butterfly wing scenarios, our minds learn to apply these possibilities to every situation in our lives.

I couldn't say whether I think 'big business' is driving the efforts of the media to sensationalize things, or whether there's a more sinister motive — employing fear, suspicion and panic as weapons to diminish our capacity as a people to unite and respond to injustices, or to master our insecurities to lead truly free lives. I'm sure there are a number of people in various positions of power who prefer us to remain fearful and therefore dependent on any manner of device, substance or service, or entire lifestyle that will provide us any degree of security.

But I do know there will always be people around to give me a wake up call when I need it, and I hope I can pass along the favour to a few people in my lifetime. Thanks to this article, I feel a bit clearer tonight. It's always helpful to be reminded of the things that contribute to the great challenge of mastering our anxieties. Being aware of them is probably half the battle.

Thanks Kuncen! All the blessings in the world for your little one, and his loving parents.

Kuncen's picture

Thanks Penyu Sepi, for the

Thanks Penyu Sepi, for the analysis and the very thoughtful comment.  I've been toying with the idea of transforming the site into a positive-news-only site, or at least having a regular feature where I debunk the latest fear-mongering headlines.  I'll keep you posted.

Kuncen

PenyuSepi's picture

That's an interesting idea,

That's an interesting idea, and very unique I think.  Unique is good.  Though I'm not sure how I'd feel about it now.  After reading your article, I'm thinking that outright avoiding everything negative in the news might not be the best answer.  I still think being super-exposed all the time is probably going to take its toll, but I can see now that witnessing this phenomenon and being aware of its effects is the key to overcoming any power it holds over us.  Like germs, maybe.  Your best bet is not to avoid them altogether, (unless you have some immune-deficiency condition!), because you'll grow vulnerable, and eventually get hit by something that'll do you in, because there's no way to avoid them all forever.  Better to take your chances and hope normal doses will serve to build up your resistance, and that way you won't have to miss out on the world and everything awesome you'd otherwise have to hide from.

The important difference I suppose is that this fear-effect thing is an attack on our minds, so we'll be the ones to decide whether our exposure makes us stronger, or tosses oil on our neuroses fire.  

At any rate, I think I've been coaxed out from under my rock, and for that I'm very grateful!

Kuncen's picture

Article? <wink wink>

You've got a very eloquent writing style PS... very descriptive, yet still easy to read.

If you'd ever like to write something for the site, just let me know.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  I think a lot of potential contributors get hung up on that — a fear that their article isn't good enough, either in style or substance.  But really there aren't any rules, you just have to have something to say.  :)

Kuncen