This past week, the world experienced massive news coverage of the New Zealand Christchurch shooting, the investigation of the Boeing 737 Max and the biggest college admissions scam in U.S. history involving celebrities. Information has been dispatched by text, phone notifications, tweets, Facebook and newspaper articles.
The way we consume news is changing. That is not a statement of opinion, but a fact. There are still print newspapers and magazines, but several big name companies including Teen Vogue have gone fully digital as the age of online media begins to eclipse that of the hard copy. While getting news online is fast and effective, it has also led to the prevalence of something else: news overload.
News overload isn’t exactly new and it’s not the end of the world, but it is something that has the ability to take a hold on your mental health and world outlook. In a nutshell, news overload is exactly what it sounds like: consuming too much news. This is fairly easy to do in today’s society, thanks to social media and apps that deliver news alerts to your home screen.
A June 2018 study by the Pew Research Center found that nearly seven out of 10 Americans feel stressed or worn out by the amount of news they recieve. An American Psychology Association survey concluded with similar results.
News overload isn’t exactly new and it’s not the end of the world, but it is something that has the ability to take hold on your mental health and world outlook
The article said, “Adults also indicated that they feel conflicted between their desire to stay informed about the news and their view of the media as a source of stress. While most adults (95 percent) say they follow the news regularly, 56 percent say that doing so causes them stress, and 72 percent believe the media blows things out of proportion.”
This touches on another piece tied up with news overload: the line between staying informed and being overwhelmed.
Farhad Manjoo described in a New York Times article a self-prescribed routine he created for narrowing his news intake while still staying up to date with the world’s happenings. He did not use social media and subscribed to get several newspapers delivered straight to his door. He chose the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle and The Economist. In his own words, he was trying to “slow jam” the news by getting all the information, just not in the frenetic way it’s typically delivered nowadays.
Manjoo recounted his experience receiving the news of the Parkland shooting last year when he was two months into his streamlined news consumption. He wrote, “Not only had I spent less time with the story than if I had followed along as it unfolded online, I was better informed, too. Because I had avoided the innocent mistakes — and the more malicious misdirection — that had pervaded the first hours after the shooting, my first experience of the news was an accurate account of the actual events of the day.”
Manjoo is not the only person who has chosen to deliberately limit and cultivate the ways in which he receives news. If you poke around on the internet, you will find stories of people, often journalists, who have taken the same general approach as Manjoo. The consensus seems to be that quitting news cold turkey isn’t the way to go. Instead, find a way to give more structure to the way you consume news, whether that’s picking a few reputable sites that you check once a day or turning off news notifications on your phone. There’s a certain privilege in being able to fully discount the news, but it’s also not fair to say one needs to consume headline after headline to the point of bursting.