With all the recent news stories about escalating tensions here, strife there, and severe weather all over the place it’s no wonder that we are all a bit more on edge than normal. It is easy to get caught up in the various news cycles and to become fixated on what is going on globally. Keeping up with current events is one thing, but allowing current events to affect your life is another.
If you have found yourself feeling more anxious than usual, or like there is something bugging you that you cannot put your finger on, it may be that you are being affected by today’s many world issues. It is hard to avoid all the various stories and problems that are out there. And, while some will argue that awareness is crucial, it could be that the infiltration of these things into your mind has caused challenges for your day-to-day functioning.
Why We Watch
On the whole, we have become a more politically charged society. We can thank the recent elections and surrounding drama for that. But along with that we have also become far more involved in world events. With the news operating on a 24-hour cycle, it is easy to do. In fact, viewership for the major news networks has gone up dramatically.
Many of us feel like we are being more responsible global citizens by knowing about what is going on in the world. We get drawn into the latest happenings and then feel compelled to follow the story until it is resolved. The problem is that these stories many times do not have resolution, or at least not happy ones.
Add to that the media’s increasing ability to sensationalize the most horrific stories and make them suspenseful and urgent. We can’t help feeling like we have to watch because it is an “Alert” and must be important. We would be remiss if we didn’t see it through to the end.
Effects of Constant News
This constant barrage of what is primarily sad, depressing, and often scary information takes its toll on us both emotionally and physically. As human beings, most of us have a certain amount of natural empathy for the tragedy of others. Said plainly, seeing horrible things happening to others makes us feel bad and, at times, guilty.
Then there is the undercurrent of anxiety that creeps into our daily activities. ISIS, North Korea, Russia – it goes on and on. How can we happily go day-to-day when life as we know it could come to a screeching halt at any moment?
Psychologists are increasingly seeing more people whose anxiety seems to have ties to our overexposure to media and the horrible things that they display so graphically. Let’s face it, there are some things you just cannot un-see or un-hear. People who are overly connected to these events that they cannot control can often have issues focusing, sleeping or with personal relationships. In fact, the effects can be somewhat similar to PTSD even though the person has not actually had the experience.
Turn It Off
Disengaging from the regular media stream can have many benefits. But in order to do so you must first recognize that you are not being irresponsible if you turn the TV off, or disregard the CNN headlines.
For most of the issues that are reported on there is very little, if anything, that you can do to affect them. So, it is probably a good idea to start evaluating the real value knowing about the latest shooting, melting glacier or failed terror plot has on your daily life. Are you better served knowing about every little thing said by a political talking head, or by focusing on being the most positive and productive version of yourself? Chances are the latter.
If you find yourself so touched by something that is going on, to the point of feeling driven to do something, there are plenty of ways to get involved in solutions. But, be careful. Becoming part of a “cause” can be noble, but it can also take over your life.
The bottom line is that the 24/7 news cycle can be addictive. And, like any addiction, it can be destructive. As odd of a thing as it may seem to say, be wary of how much news you consume. The news can consume and take over you.