information overload, or why I don’t read the news

I don’t generally read a newspaper, either print or online. Sometimes I feel like this is an irresponsible thing to do, that I should be keeping myself educated about what is going on in the world. But I just can’t take the news. Most of the time it is either too depressing or just another article on the same old topic not saying much at all. I know that there are terrible things going on all over the world; I don’t need to have the details of each one drummed into me day after day. If the article is about something the United States government has or is doing, it is likely to get my blood boiling, and I really don’t need that kind of stress on a day-to-day basis either. I do occasionally feel that I am missing something by not reading the news (for example, looking at nytimes.com right now I see a few articles which I would most likely find interesting), but it is so hard to do without becoming overwhelmed.

I do try to keep up with a few feminist blogs which include newsy items of interest to feminism. Feministe and Feministing are both multi-author blogs with many updates per day, while The Curvature is written by a single author who manages to post lengthy analyses of various things on average more than once a day. However, I’m starting to find reading even just these three blogs (as well as a few others, such as No Cookies for Me, which are updated less than once a day) somewhat overwhelming. My blog reader has unread items from weeks ago that I will probably never get to. All of the authors write interesting posts and are capable of making me think about something in a new way, but sometimes I just can’t read yet another post about a rape apologist. So much of the news written about on these blogs is negative and it is starting to take its toll on me. In addition, the comment threads on these posts can get quite long, and while I want to read the comments for the posts that interest me the most, it is so much to process. On the other hand, it is encouraging to see that there is a large community of people who share similar values and beliefs with me, and occasionally I even feel inspired to write a comment on one of the posts. It is hard to know how to keep with these blogs without becoming both overwhelmed and desensitized to the types of things that get written about.

To generalize for a moment, I think desensitization is a big problem with the way in which violence and war is written about and shown in the news. When you see similar violent images over and over again (photos in the paper, or even more powerfully, on television), they start to lose their impact on your emotions. And then you start to accept that this is just the way things are. Perhaps I get so easily overwhelmed reading the news precisely because I am not desensitized in the way that most Americans are.

The one news source I read religiously is Ms. Magazine. It comes only four times a year and it is always packed full of well-written, well-researched, thoughtful articles on a variety of topics, with both positive and negative news. I enjoy that all this is encapsulated in a single magazine, which makes it feel more balanced than the daily stream of blog posts. I look forward to each new issue.

This post is a little rambly, but I think the basic question I am asking myself (and you, if you care to respond) is: in today’s culture, with so many media and news sources, how does one keep up with the important things in the news (or the things that are particularly interesting to you) without becoming overwhelmed and/or desensitized?

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4 Responses to information overload, or why I don’t read the news

  1. a.s. says:

    I keep up by watching the first 15 minutes of NBC news, before the first ads come on, listening to the first 5 minutes of radio news at 7 am, and by reading the headlines of my local newspaper (mostly to get the local news stories). I also occasionally glance through a Newsweek magazine that a friend passes on to me. So I spend no more than 1/2 hour per day keeping up with the news. That’s about all I can handle.I agree that desensitization to violence is a major issue of our times, and it begins very early in life, especially in children who are allowed to watch TV or DVD’s. Most shows for children contain violence in some form, and it is even portrayed humorously at times. Many Disney movies contain scenes of violence, death, and destruction. Add to this the fact that the majority of people in the U.S. still feel that spanking children is an appropriate way to discipline then. If we were to design a culture with the goal of producing violent people, we would design it exactly as the culture in which most American children grow up.

  2. Lyndsay says:

    I sometimes go over headlines on google news but generally avoid the world news headlines because they can be the worse. And I keep up with blogs but yeah, they can get depressing. Taking a course called “Violence, Gender and Culture” is desensitizing me sadly but I have to stay sane. Anyway, hopefully I will do something about all this in my lifetime but I can’t be too sensitive about it all if it’s not going to lead to productiveness. That’s what I’m figuring lately.

  3. Sarah says:

    If we were to design a culture with the goal of producing violent people, we would design it exactly as the culture in which most American children grow up.Yes, indeed. I think I will write an entire post related to this at some point.I can’t be too sensitive about it all if it’s not going to lead to productiveness.That’s true. It is easy to just fall into a hole of depression and wallow around in it, bemoaning how awful and hopeless the world is. This is not productive and for me it is important that I stay hopefull and take productive actions. So I keep myself from wallowing in the depression by not spending too much time with the news. I know that the world is rampant with problems, now I want to do something about it!

  4. fjd says:

    I read the NYT daily but skip the articles that repeat the obvious or repeat made-up media stories, e.g., anything on the current primary process. I especially like Krugman’s and Kristof’s op-ed pieces and the occasional long articles on global/ization stuff (e.g., reasons for recent commodity price changes, sustainability issues, trends).

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