Is tech giving us bad news burnout?
It’s 9am and I’m already frazzled from reading about impending nuclear war, overstretched food banks, a messy Brexit, pervasive sexism, trolling, terrorism and the fact that as a millennial I’ll never be able to afford a house because I’m spending all my money on avocado.
Go to any news site or just scroll through Facebook and Twitter and it can feel like things are bleaker than the M6 on a Friday night. And it just doesn’t seem to be letting up.
This is partly because the way we consume news has changed – but whether we’ve really changed with it is less clear.
Until relatively recently we got our news hit from a daily or weekly newspaper. We could control when we accessed it and it appeared in carefully curated dosages.
Now constant coverage is beamed at us through 24-hour news websites and social media. We often end up seeing news even when we don’t plan to.
It’s probably not surprising that lots of people have been complaining of feeling overwhelmed and upset because of what’s happening in the world – myself included.
The question is, do we have to choose between being well-informed and our sanity?
In reality, we probably just need a change of perspective.
When researching this blog I looked at some top Twitter hashtags, expecting them to be almost exclusively negative.
These are a few of the site’s all-time top trends according to the BBC:
- #BlackLivesMatter – a movement to create a fairer society for black people
- #EdBallsDay – a day celebrating when politician Ed Balls tweeted his own name
- #TheDress – that mad blue/white/gold colour-changing dress
- #HeForShe – the United Nations campaign for gender equality
- #IceBucketChallenge – a fundraising challenge for ALS
- #CupForBen – a dad’s request to find the only sippy cup his autistic son would use
- #JoinIn – started by comedian Sarah Millican for people who are lonely at Christmas
It’s not a watertight scientific experiment by any stretch, but they aren’t anywhere near as bad as I predicted.
A few even started as a negative – like racial inequality or loneliness – but through social media saw positive results.
#BlackLivesMatter has raised awareness, just like the recent #metoo campaign. It can feel like the hashtags are just pointing out two incredibly widespread problems but in the long-term they can also be an instrumental part of change.
The #IceBucketChallenge funded ground-breaking research into ALS, #CupForBen resulted in Tommee Tippee launching a new production run of their cups for the boy and #JoinIn brought together people together who needed a friend.
What it boils down to is that the world is probably the same as it always has been but thanks to an ‘always on’ culture and 24/7 coverage we’re just hearing more about it, so statistically that’s going to include more bad stuff.
We’re also connected to a much wider group of people so instead of just taking on the bad news in our neighbourhood, we’re hearing the issues of an entire planet.
But by connecting us technology also gives us more power to do something about them.
It’s a shame that the good news often seems to get drowned out but it is still there and I’m going to make more of an effort to find it.
To avoid becoming overwhelmed I sometimes need to remind myself it’s OK not to completely immerse myself in all of the bad news – and to take a break altogether if needs be.
If you feel like you're still getting sucked in, limit yourself to a set time for news a day, turn off news app push notifications, or visit a positive site after every regular news site you go to – like switching between water and alcoholic drinks on a night out.
Tech gives us the opportunity to be incredibly well-informed and that’s a good thing, but as with any other area of our lives, it’s important that we control it - and not the other way round.