Humans and "the news"

How do we form a healthy relationship with “the news”?

We don’t have to go too far back to pre-date the notion of news as the entire world’s most horrific events pouring over us daily through radio/TV/computer/etc. What was “the news” to our ancestors?

I asked my daughters just now, if we were to knock on our neighbor Florence’s door and ask her what’s happening in the neighborhood, what kinds of things would she tell us? She might say that someone down the street from us had a kitchen fire, or someone gave birth to twins, had a miscarriage, got married, broke their leg, or was diagnosed with cancer. What is this news compared with the news on NPR? What does it put in motion?

If we’re not already overloaded with the massive ocean of troubles happening worldwide, we can take these kinds of stories and actually do something with them. People LIKE to help—I’d say that’s a defining element of people when we’re relatively healthy—so news of this sort about people we know, acquaintances, or even strangers who are simply physically nearby, has an element of gift in it. We can walk a meal down to someone who needs it. We can satisfy the desire we feel to help.

But mostly we get stuck inside our houses listening to the endless stream of tragedy happening far away. “A bomb just went off halfway around the world and fifty people were killed including twenty children.” We may feel genuinely horrified if we’re able to really connect with what those words mean, but our innate pull to help can’t grab onto anything, so we’re left with the weight of our longing to help. Heartaches pile up this way and never get to come full circle and work their creative magic. What happens to the part of us that really wants to help (i.e., participate, relate, engage—be fully alive) but can’t?

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Great question! Having no TV or smartphone helps a lot. When I stay with others, I usually avoid watching the news, glossing over a paper or crocheting instead, while others watch TV. This way I avoid getting fed horrific images without warning. I do listen to the radio or read news online, and sometimes I even turn off these sources.
And although I do use email a lot, I prefer to write (and receive) letters. Recently I tried to find a nice new writing pad, but most stores don’t carry that anymore. When I finally found some, I felt so happy: it had cranes for decoration!

BTW, I just happened upon a booklet last week by Jacques Lusseyran (France, 1924-1971): “Against the Pollution of the I”, in which the first essay addresses a closely related hazard: the littering of the inner world by irrelevant information, noise etc. A small gem indeed.

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On one hand, I don’t like watching TV in general. Most news, commercials, and scripted shows (aren’t they all scripted?) elicit an hour-long angry rant from me. And I have trouble sitting still for too long anyway. Although I did watch 24-hour news all day for like a year, compulsively mending clothes and forgetting to eat. Now I maybe spend a few hours a week watching Arrow, The Walking Dead, and Yu Yu Hakusho.

But on the other hand, I like to know what might be going on in the world. Sure, the news on TV might all be another big lie, but better safe than sorry. If I didn’t watch the news, I wouldn’t know about all the potential radioactive waste hazards near where my mother lives. Or if my dad, a firefighter in St. Louis, might be called out to a riot zone again.

Perhaps I’m a little paranoid. But failing to plan is planning to fail, and just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. :stuck_out_tongue: For the past few years, on “Independence” Day and New Year’s, I’ve temporarily forgotten that fireworks are a tradition. Yes, let’s worry about teenagers blowing things up while selling explosives to 16 year olds…

I hear the booms, and since I never keep track of the calender date anyway, I start thinking bombs and guns. Terrorist attacks or violent protests. Before I remember that it is just a “firework holiday”, I’m geared up and ready to bug out. And quite frankly, holidays are more dangerous, especially for the firefighters. :confused: It’s almost like the horrible things on TV have a post-traumatic stress effect on me…

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Yeah, it’s a mixed bag. I read the news and listen to the radio. I try to digest and work with what I can, and wonder what to do with all my unfulfilled longing, and try to remember to check in with local people plenty too. Different layers of “news” to sift through—the bombing in Manchester, Trump’s latest assholery, a friend’s depression, my mom’s illness.