Taking a break from the world's updates.
Charter Oak High School

The news blues: Is staying too updated unhealthy?

In the early hours of the morning, most people are just getting their day started. For many, the first thing they do is check their phones for updates. Among other things, there might be text messages and notifications from social media. But nowadays, it seems as though people are waking up to the news of crisis after crisis.

Is it important to keep updated? According to Mrs. Margo Wilcox, Charter Oak High School English teacher, it is.

“It’s valuable to be aware about what’s going on in the world,” she said. Surely, staying updated keeps us all connected to the world and society’s functions, but could this also have a negative impact, especially with today’s current events?

It is no secret that there have been many crises lately. There is the looming threat of nuclear war. There was the Manhattan, N.Y. truck rampage where a man drove a pickup truck into a cycle lane of people, killing at least eight and injuring at least 12. There was a shooting in Las Vegas and another at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

There were the hurricanes that swept through the globe, hitting places like Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida and the Caribbean Islands. The death toll is devastating, and it is still rising. Social and political issues emerge, all among the grieving that has not been given a chance to fade.

News travels fast. In the age of the smartphone, news from the other side of the world can be at our fingertips in seconds. Notifications pile on top of each other from various sources, depending on what apps people get and what updates they program their phone to give.

Social media is bombarded with tweets and hashtags, sending and calling for prayers for one crisis, then another one immediately after. It seems as though there is more to come as soon as the mayhem for one dies down. Young adults are especially affected by this flood of updates, since these are the generations that are more accustomed to the digital world.

“I think it’s imperative that young adults learn that they’re part of a bigger world,” said Mrs. Bonnie Shockey, English teacher. “It’s difficult to tell children this, because children will then obsess over the possibility of horror and they won’t be able to function. They’ll just worry that the bomb is coming for them.”

According to Mrs. Lisa Dettelbach, English teacher, she does not think that it is healthy to know everything at the exact moment it happens.

“I’m concerned that having an open line to everything that’s going on at every moment of the day can have a negative impact on me emotionally and spiritually,” she said. “While I think it’s really important to know what’s going on in the world, I believe that you have to moderate it. I’ve seen some of the most positive people in my life impacted by all the negativity that beeps into their life every thirty minutes.”

We as humans already have a large burden on our shoulders just for living our lives. There are personal problems to be worked out, typical stress from work or school, and many other factors that cause distress on a daily basis. With this to consider, piling on the world’s issues will only make it worse.

“I don’t have a smartphone,” said Mrs. Wilcox. “I get my news from NPR or the [L.A.] Times. I get mine in doses, which is more manageable for me. Personally, I don’t need to be connected all the time,” she said.

Is this how we all should be? The power of today’s media allows access to some appallingly heart-wrenching sources. Videos of the shootings and the truck incident circulate Twitter and Facebook. Pictures of victims and grieving survivors make their way onto people’s timelines. It might be all too much. There is a fine line between keeping updated and having to see the atrocity in vivid detail.

Like Mrs. Wilcox, Mrs. Shockey thinks that treating the news like a dosage is a good idea. As a teacher, she feels like she has to decide what news is fit for what age group, taking into consideration the ethics and morality involved.

“Should we all be paying attention to the news? I think so. That being said, we’re exhausted right now. We’re exhausted by the news. So if we can’t sleep, if we’re worried, and if faces are breaking out, and our world feels so small, then stepping away from the news might be necessary to heal our hearts. We can give it to ourselves in small doses and educate ourselves on what we heard, not just take what we heard by fact, then we will be a wiser, more empathetic, and more carefully thinking culture,” she said.

Whether it is by being the cause of the crisis, the supplier of updates, or the one who receives the notifications, it seems as though we are drowning ourselves in tragedy. The mental impact is unhealthy or even dangerous, especially for those with already so much to handle on a daily basis.

We can push our phones aside. We can turn off our notifications for a few hours or so. We can turn away from the TV or leave the radio off. It could be beneficial to take a step back once in a while. The underlying sense of panic and mania can be leveled out if we choose to breathe for a little, because teenagers and adults can suffer from fear as much as children. Even the most active advocates for political or social justice can take a minute to remember that not all the world is bad.