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News Fatigue: Staying Informed Shouldn’t Be the Root of Your Depression

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

As a young adult in society, it is your civic duty to keep up with the world around you as best you can. Mass journalism provides the foundation of which we are able to gather information and form our own opinions about the world we live in. With this non-stop access to information, we are able to initiate the change we wish to see in our communities as well as feel more connected to the people in them. But lately, we seem to consume news involuntarily. So much so that it’s costing some people their sanity and driving them away from staying in the know. In the world of journalism, this is known as “news fatigue” and, as previously stated, it causes people to actively avoid news of any sort.

Does this sound like you? Because same. Anything from a short attention span to chronic anxiety can keep a person from consuming news, but what about people who have never dealt with this kind of news-related stress until recently? Why has one of society’s simplest expectations of us become one of the most emotionally draining things to go through with? Why have we gone from consuming news to news consuming us?

Its no secret that the outbreak of COVID-19 had everyone glued to their devices anxiously awaiting update after update. The CDC this, the CDC that — even now, in 2022, we are still compulsively engrossed by these updates. I think it’s safe to say that the latest with COVID doesn’t terrify people like it used to, however, it does continue to perpetuate the crippling fatigue that this kind of news has presented upon so many.

It’s almost as if this kind of news is addictive, but at the same time, I, like so many others, have actually found myself intently avoiding the recent news so as to keep myself somewhat collected amidst the chaos. I hate that. I hate that I’ve been scared away from being informed. I hate that the most basic way to contribute to society is now something so petrifying that it no longer has a place in the day to day lives of so many. The way in which fear-mongering subjects, such as COVID, are talked about lately is extremely unyielding, especially to those who struggle with debilitating mental illnesses.

The same goes for climate change. Officially known in the psychiatric community as “climate grief”, this phenomenon, although not an actual diagnosis, plagues many people of the world who are left feeling hopeless about the climate emergency and the state of planet as we know it. This is an especially heavy topic because most of the climate-related issues we face are the fault of the large corporations we have little to no power over. Why would anyone go out of their way to read something that’s going to worsen their depression if they can’t do anything about it? Sometimes the bad news isn’t worth the panic attack it may trigger.

In a survey conducted by Pew Research in 2019, it was revealed that 7 in 10 Americans felt exhausted from the news and its pessimistic nature. The big reason for this is because the news can be upsetting, but other reports on the matter have provided reasons that include the lack of trust in journalists to report the facts, and the polarization that journalism perpetuates among people, especially regarding political matters.

After struggling for a couple years now to keep up with news -not knowing whether or not I’m going to finish a story without spiraling into another dimension-I have identified a couple key issues with news today that I think are responsible for driving consumers away (or at least just me).

One of them is the fact that we don’t find news anymore; it finds us. It is utterly inescapable, and social media, per usual, is the culprit. Although I almost completely stopped reading and watching the news during the height of Covid back in 2020, I still kept Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat: all of which are platforms for media outlets to spread their latest updates through likes and shares. Even TikTok makes it basically impossible to live under a rock sometimes. This contributes to an even greater issue we face today; the spread of misinformation through social media. So not only do we have to worry about news being too heavy to process, we also have to worry about getting the facts that we unintentionally accumulate wrong.

The other issue with today’s news is that for many of the current problems journalists explore, very few talk about possible solutions. Granted, it is a journalist’s job to report what is happening in real time so as to give consumers a full rundown of the issue being posed. However, not every major issue has an easy fix or an end in sight. Climate change and COVID are great examples of this. There is only so much you, as an individual, can do. You can get the vaccine and reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible, but after you’ve done your part, the updates about a new variant or the Earth getting hotter causes a lot of panic and helplessness. Tuning into the stories about issues you have very little power over getting worse by the day is useless and exhausting. What’s worse is the lack of coverage about the advancements being made to combat such issues. It’s as if some journalists purposely and exclusively seek out fear-inducing stories that’ll ruin your day for the thrill of it. There is, however, a solution to solution-less journalism — and that is solution journalism.

“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – Albus Dumbledore

When in doubt about whatever issue, http://solutionsjournalism.org may show you a glimmer of hope. One of my professors introduced this site in class one day, and it has honestly been such a godsend for me ever since. It is a reminder that for every pessimist out there, there is an optimist trying their best to bring light to the progress being made. News fatigue is unfortunately something many people are all too familiar with, however, we should all do our best to never let it be the reason we stop keeping up with the ever-changing world. News should inform us, not scare us. So continue to stay in the know, but do it in a way that prioritizes your mental health, because it is in fact possible to do both.

Originally from southern New Hampshire, Kacey is a sophomore photojournalism major at the George Washington University. Although she is most passionate about film and visual storytelling, she enjoys writing about current events and popular culture for Her Campus outside of her studies, as well as baking, thrifting, and doing yoga with friends:)
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