On Coping with News Burnout

James Cantu

January 31st, 2018

Chuck Todd color illustration of a man trying his best to run away from a whirlwind of Facebook logos. — Bay Area News Group/TNS

Paris is flooding. The Doomsday clock is two minutes to midnight. Vietnam is facing a migrant crisis due to global warming. The flu season hasn’t even peaked yet. There has been 11 school shootings in January so far. Donald Trump is still in office.

It seems like every waking moment we are bombarded with news, opinions, and advertisements that make it impossible to be aware and up-to-date on every seemingly significant happening.

News is never just, “Kim Kardashian–or rather Kim Kardashian’s surrogate–had a baby and named her Chicago.” It’s also, “Does Kanye West have the right to name her Chicago if he was born in Atlanta, Georgia and raised in Oak Lawn?” or, “Moral-ethical-social-political-economical implications of a public figure using a gestational carrier in order to maintain her figure,” et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum.

It’s like dropping a sponge in the ocean, we can only absorb and filter so much.

Maybe our focus on vines, tide pod memes, and celebrities is just another coping mechanism to avoid the absolute dumpster fire that is the human experience.

After all, it hurts to care about everything on the news sometimes. Its tiring. Its emotionally draining. It’s impossible to care, to feel compassion, to be empathetic in situations where being sympathetic would be easier on the psyche all the time.

Everyone has a tipping point. Whether it be scrolling quickly past a news article detailing a movement to raise child marriages to 18 just to avoid uncomfortable feelings (isn’t that just delaying the inevitable? What about the women’s physical and emotional well being after 18? Why is this happening?), to mentally checking out. After all, if you really try hard enough, what you don’t care about can’t hurt you, much.

Eventually, it all leads up to (or at least I’d like to think it leads up to, rather than starts off with)  the big “W.” Why. “Why should I care? It doesn’t affect me anyway.”

Maybe it’s because I’m still young and naive enough to hope that at some point in our lives witnessing another living being in pain urges us to relieve that pain, rather than be apart of it.

Whenever I go down the emotional rabbit hole of recognizing that one person can’t change the world, while simultaneously trying my hardest, only to get burnt out, I think of a quote by Kurt Vonnegut that I believe answers that question, “There is no WHY, since the moment simply is, and since all of us are simply trapped in the moment, like bugs in Amber.”

So what if, in the end, we are all just dust used to keep the wind away? The moment is now, and all future moments are dependent on the actions of now. We can’t shape positive future moments if we are unaware of the negative current moments.

Keeping up with the news is probably a lot harder and emotionally taxing than binge watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians. More knowledge of the world around us tends to make us  reexamine our actions and worldviews.

Maybe I should start using reusable water bottles more often than not, unlearn speaking over women and children, and to hold myself and my elected representatives accountable for their actions.

But, in order for us to become more aware of the world beyond ourselves, it might have to start with turning on the morning news.

James Cantu

Opinions Editor

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