Earlier this week, I retweeted an article I wrote last year about the Highly Sensitive (HSP) personality type and how it’s important to practice self-care, particularly when there is a tragedy being reported in the news. This week the horrible and tragic situation in Vegas brought this to mind again because in our 24-hour news culture, it has become the norm to replay traumatizing videos over and over again and to dissect every small piece of it and to interview victims who are still bloody, in shock, and processing the event themselves about all the gory details.
Seeing the videos and interviews is disturbing to everyone because the whole thing is awful and tragic and terrifying, but to some of us, it can feel like more because we can’t dial down the empathy or separate ourselves from the intense emotion of it all. Seeing it over and over can send us into a spiral of imagining the victims’ pain, picturing horrible things, thinking about what their families are going through, and feeling deeply anxious or distressed. It’s a bad and unhealthy cycle to get caught up in.
Whether you want to label it “highly sensitive” or not, I’ve known this about myself for a long time. I’ve always had an intense empathy response. It was what led me to become a social worker and therapist. I wanted to help people. It’s also what made me realize social work might kill me because I couldn’t mentally leave things at the office. I worked with kids and the stresses and problems they were having went home with me each night. It takes a special person to be a social worker, nurse, doctor, first responder, etc. It takes someone who can separate emotions out in order to do their job effectively. I realized I wasn’t the right fit for it.
But I’ve learned that this quality is also what makes watching the barrage of daily breaking news so difficult and stressful. I want to know what is happening in the world so that I’m informed and can take action when and how it’s needed (I still have that desire to help), but I don’t gain any additional information by seeing these traumatic things running all day long over and over again. Plus, outside of being sensitive or not, I don’t see how it helps victims to stick a camera in their face an hour after the scariest and most devastating moment of their lives to interview them about what it was like to see people killed around them. How does that help anyone to do that?
This is obviously just my opinion, but that “breaking news” dissection of every event, not to mention the constant yelling over issues on the national news stations (regardless of political leanings) has turned me away from news pretty much completely. I watch my local affiliate at night for the weather and that’s about it. The morning news show I watched for most of my adult life is no longer watched. And frankly, Twitter has become much of the same for me. I used to spend time there to socialize during writing breaks (and I'd get news that way), but now I only pop in and out to respond to people and announce book/blog info because otherwise, there’s so much anger and arguing that it's often a stressful place to be. I’m not saying the anger isn’t justified, but I can't invite that into my day every day. I’ve had to step back from all of it because otherwise I would just spend my day anxious, depressed, or pissed off and get nothing else done.
However, I still want to be an informed person and citizen. Total avoidance swings too far in the other direction. Sticking my head in the sand and ignoring everything doesn’t help either. So this week, a possible solution hit me: ingest the information in a different, calmer, more controlled way. The old school way. For the first time in my life, I subscribed to . . . a newspaper. Yes, the paper kind delivered on your front doorstep. They still do those. Shocking, I know. But after researching, I realized that it could offer a good solution to my dilemma.
Benefits to the newspaper over TV/internet:
- There are no looping videos like TV and the internet that show traumatizing content.
- There is no need to constantly repeat the same stories or obsess over every minute detail as “breaking news” to fill 24-hours of airtime (on the contrary, there is limited space so only the most important stories make it in.)
- There is no scrolling news ticker at the bottom or competing videos in the sidebar, which help create information overload and that anxious feeling.
- A newspaper will have some local, in depth coverage so that I know what’s going on in my city and state.
- In addition, a newspaper will cover other important stories you're not hearing about on TV because one big headline tends to dominate TV news for days at a time. There's a whole world of news going on out there (nationally and internationally) that gets lost in the noise.
- Positive stories are included as well (which seems to be becoming more rare on TV, though my local news does try to highlight at least one positive story each night.)
- Fact-checked news that hopefully covers stories from both sides. (I researched which newspapers were the most even-handed because even though I lean strongly one way, I think it’s important to get opinions from all sides.)
- Bonus—there is no comments section to raise your blood pressure and no pundits yelling at each other! I can read, process, and develop my own opinion without all the racket.
There are more benefits (paying to support writers, getting local restaurant/event information, movie reviews, etc.) but those in the list are pretty huge in my book.
I’ve also decided to try out a few magazines since I also like in depth dives into different topics. I’ve subscribed to The New Yorker, National Geographic, and Scientific American.
Yes, it’s retro and Luddite of me maybe, but sometimes the old way of doing things isn’t always the inferior way. For those who need to step back for their own emotional well-being or simply those who want information without the barrage of noise and repetitiveness, I think this could be a solid answer. I just started my subscription and am going to get the weekend editions, so I’ll report back how it goes.
Is anyone else in the same boat with the 24-hours news culture? Anyone still subscribe to a newspaper or magazines?