Overwhelmed by negative news

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Does anyone else ever feel overwhelmed by negative news? How do you manage what news to pay attention to and what to ignore? Do you feel the need to stay current with everything happening in the world, no matter how negative it may be?

I've never been a pessimistic or negative person and I've always been pretty firm about staying up-to-date with as much of what's going on in the world as possible. That started to change in 2020 when I didn't have a college graduation. That's when it really hit home for me that life as I expected it was maybe not going to be as "normal" as had been promised to me. When the sky turned an apocalyptic orange last summer due to wildfires and 2021 became the worst drought year since the 1970s and now we're on track for the second-worst wildfires in California history after just the previous year, a part of me started to think "what's the point? everything just keeps getting worse, the downward trajectory isn't going to stop, and there's nothing I can do about it." I come to sites like this to discuss these issues because knowing that other people are noticing what I'm noticing puts me at ease to some degree. But there's only so much doom and gloom I can take. I've noticed it in podcasts I listen to that cover current issues; they've become more negative over the past couple of years as well and who can blame them? The climate is self-destructing at an exponential rate, we're in a pandemic that shows no sign of going away, a conservative Supreme Court is going to dictate the direction of the country for generations to come...

How do you handle it all? Because I'm starting to lose my grip here...
 

MEJHarrison

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I've been overwhelmed at times. So I just stop watching / reading the news. The world won't stop if I quit paying attention for a little while. I feel no need whatsoever to stay current on everything. It's not like me acquiring that knowledge is going to change the situation. It is what it is and either I'm informed about it, or I'm not.

There's threads here on important looking things that I ignore entirely and others where I might drop in from time to time, but don't participate. I don't have it in me to be on top of every issue. When people are mortified that I have no opinion on the most important issue in the world to them, I just shrug and tell them I simply don't have to time to give all the evil in the world the outrage it deserves. No one has that kind of time. There's probably millions of worthy causes out there that deserve attention. Just in this country alone. A single person just can't do them all.

It's like food. You can eat until your needs are met, or you can eat until your desires are met. One of those is healthy, one isn't. That's how I treat news. I consume what's an appropriate amount for me, and try not to overdo it.

It's probably helps that most of my interests have nothing to do with politics, religion, world events, etc. Prior to American sticking it's head up it's own ass, I wouldn't have even cared to join a place like this. I've voted three times in my life and two of those were in the last two elections. But recent years have taught me that if I keep my head in the sand all the time, I might not like what I see when I come up for air.

I'm not sure if that's helpful or not. But it's at least a different perspective.
 

lizkat

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How do you handle it all? Because I'm starting to lose my grip here...

I have to set limits on how much "news" I take in during a given day. And I'm not even a news consumer making the (imho) dreadful mistake of having a TV set left on to a 24/7 cable news channel.

Anyway I have to remind myself I'm looking to be informed, not overwhelmed by whatever is selling newspapers or gathering clicks today. (What gets the most clicks and eyeballs is at least "controversial" and better yet "catastrophic". )

So although I subscribe to a variety of online "general news" newspapers and magazines, most of them major metro or generally mainstream, I don't read all their versions of anything... like today's take on whatever just happened that managed to go viral on social media and Page One.

I open my array of subscriptions and pick a couple articles on those particular attention-grabbing topics and then move on through my own interests, which may vary over time or seasonally as well as per media outlet in particular.

When it's an option, I re-order the sequence of news categories on a newspaper's drop-down menu, so I'll see the ones I have the most interest in during a given time frame. I also make use of newsletter choices and tailored briefings where there's a lot of fine-tuning offered, like the Financial Times provides.​

The other thing I do is seek out uplifting news. By that I don't mean only stuff that reflects my political lean, but pieces that reflect the upside of being a human in a chaotic world and one that now offers us ever more information but not always the ease or knowledge of how to filter it.

There's a newsletter among the WaPo's options called The Optimist, which offers a selection of their recent articles where humanity towards other humans was key to the point of those articles.​

The CSMonitor often runs pieces with an eye to other than what in "the news" on some days might seem like a one-way trip to hell that ends tomorrow. For instance I got a kick out of this one​


and then there's the WaPo's Inspired Life column, which is always worth a look-in. Where else could you find this piece.​


I don't regard any of that stuff as filler or trivial. It's the stuff of our real lives, just doesn't always make "the news" because it's considered so mundane or just local. So ordinary? And think about what ordinary really means.... "prevalent" comes to mind.

Speaking of getting a grip on news, more USA public schools are now starting to formalize instruction in media literacy as part of instruction in critical thinking. Illinois just became the first state to deem media literacy education a prerequisite to high school graduation.

 

Chew Toy McCoy

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As cliché as it sounds, I sometimes detox from current events by trying to appreciate what I have and be in the moment.

Sort of related, I was listening to a podcast earlier in the week and one of the hosts took 8 days off news and social media. In a short time he said he realized how quickly a white male can slip into feeling everything is fine, meaning he’s not confronted with a barrage of negative daily real world situations that may happen to non whites or women. If white males want societal problems they need to seek them out.
 

SuperMatt

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I wish I had a great answer. I enjoy my job, so engaging myself with that helps. I am trying to do some minor home fix-ups, which I am terrible at. But I just finished a very simple one and it lifted my mood and distracted me from the bad news of the world. Listening to humorous podcasts like Conan O’Brien’s (he tries to avoid politics altogether) is a help.

Finally, I only watch the news 1 hour a day - PBS News Hour, and listen to a little of it on the radio when I’m in the car going somewhere. I get my “news” from a lovely community such as this posting links and weighing in. Much better than just doom-scrolling twitter. The takes on the news from forum members make it seem not that bad.
 

Scepticalscribe

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I think that part of the solution may lie in setting and carving out psychological and physical boundaries, - time (listen to news only at certain set times of the day, unless a specific news story compels your attention, as, for example, Afghanistan has done for me, or the US election), and space - my mother used to do this, and I faithfully follow this practice - she never permitted any TV or anything other than (easy classical, folk, world, jazz or pop/rock) music (as background music) at the dinner table; no news, no TV, no radio, no sports, and - these days - no mobile (or cell) phones; not at dinner. Not ever. Dinner was for chat, family talks, and discussion.

If someone needs to take a call, they leave the table and leave the room.

These days, (with Covid), even though I dine toute seule, I still rigorously follow these practices.

And, limit - and set limits on - social media. Personally, I have never joined Facebook, rarely look at LinkedIn, and use Twitter - which I visit once or twice a day - simply to keep abreast of a few political stories, note stories (from writers I respect) and sources I should take a look at, and follow up occasionally on some family stuff.

Apart from here, and MR (visited, briefly, not even every day), I have no other online presence.

Re "ordinary" media, I tend to consult sources I respect, from writers I respect, and, as @lizkat has already recommended, I also read stuff that is well outside what would have been regarded as my intellectual comfort zone.

So, my advice would be to switch off for days (or hours, or weeks) from media and social media, and develop other interests.

And, since the death of my mother, I have learned to value, and treasure silence. I love the silence of the house - there is no radio on (unless I turn it on, usually to listen to classical music, and perhaps, catch the news headlines), no TV, no noise whatsoever. Personally, I prefer silence to background noise - I find it restful.

Unlike some others who have already replied to this thread, politics, current affairs, international affairs, (and history) have been passions of mine since my teens, and were subjects that I subsequently studied, and later taught at university, and later still, comprised much of my professional life (election observation, political analysis), so, these are subjects that I will never lose an interest in, and could not conceive of a personal world where I would not be fascinated by this.

However, my interest in politics, political matters, and current affairs (and these subjects - along with cultural stuff, books, history, movies, plays, sport, travel - were discussed endlessly at the dinner table when I was a child, teenager, and student) is not (now) the all consuming passion that it was when I was younger.

And I daily give thanks for the electoral defeat of Donald Trump, not least because it means that (Texas law courts, their decisions and Afghanistan notwithstanding) I can forget for whole weeks at a time all about the US and its politics, rather than awaken each day to the dawning horror of a world where you would wonder what fresh outrage had been perpetrated, or nightmare unleashed, by the narcissistic lunatic in the White House on the world while you slept.

Nowadays, - yes, the world may be going to hell in a handbasket - but, somehow, since last November, I still sleep a little easier.

Anyway, in recent decades, I have developed other areas of interest, and seek refuge in, and find solace from, other interests which include: Music, poetry, fantasy (and fiction) books, good food (and fine wines), among others. Photography, too, used to be an interest, one which I must reclaim.
 
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Edd

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Something to keep in mind is how intensely the news is covered. We didn’t used to be so aware of truly awful things happening all around us.

I’m reading a book about investing and it has a few nuggets that stick in my mind. One of them is “things that have never happened before happen all the time”.

This is pointed out because people use history to guide their investment decisions. The world is a bit crazier then that. Always has been.
 

Scepticalscribe

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Something to keep in mind is how intensely the news is covered. We didn’t used to be so aware of truly awful things happening all around us.

I’m reading a book about investing and it has a few nuggets that stick in my mind. One of them is “things that have never happened before happen all the time”.

This is pointed out because people use history to guide their investment decisions. The world is a bit crazier then that. Always has been.

I think that this process of acceleration has been in train for around two centuries; by the mid 19th century, think of what the telegraph allowed papers to report (and in what sort of time frame; now, battles, accidents, dramatic stories could be reported - and read - in a matter of days and hours; prior to that, stories took weeks to travel, and earlier, would have taken months, if not years).

However, alongside the process of acceleration - in terms of time between event and people learning about the event - there is also the advent of a 24 hour news cycle which demands stories to fill its space.

This need to fill time has meant that the coverage of many of these stories has shifted from reporting of facts (and, nowadays, often, even the facts are a matter for dispute), to an emphasis on slants, spins, and bias.

Nevertheless, one of the things that I, personally, find deeply depressing - actually, quite distressing - is the advent of, the acceptance of, the promotion of (which is profoundly irresponsible and downright dangerous, in terms of civic, political and actual health), that which is nowadays often described as "fake news" (and the atomisation of an audience) whereby basic facts - on vaccines, on elections - are contested and doubted and derided and denigrated.
 

ronntaylor

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I think the simplest solution is boycotting news and social media. Spending time with loved ones if possible. And barring all else, spending quality time with yourself. Read. Write. Listen to your favorite music. Even just take a walk around the block/down to the part/wherever.

I know I'll feel the same way when I return home to NYC end of this weekend. I intend to walk till it hurts and take comfort in the euphoria of being absolutely worn out yet unburdened. Even if it's temporarily. Of course, I'll probably have to deal with a ton of BS when I return home due to the in-laws & neighbors, but... One. Day. At. A. Time!! :)
 

Apple fanboy

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Not being on social media helps me a lot. Like @Scepticalscribe above I just post on here and MR. Mostly I browse sports news more than actual news. I usually watch or read the news headlines about once a day. I generally find I'm not interested in many of the 'news' articles anyhow.
 

Chew Toy McCoy

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Something to keep in mind is how intensely the news is covered. We didn’t used to be so aware of truly awful things happening all around us.

I’m reading a book about investing and it has a few nuggets that stick in my mind. One of them is “things that have never happened before happen all the time”.

This is pointed out because people use history to guide their investment decisions. The world is a bit crazier then that. Always has been.

I heard recently that there was also a vocal "It's a hoax!" segment of society during the spanish flu pandemic about 100 years ago. That's oddly comforting to know.
 

MEJHarrison

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I heard recently that there was also a vocal "It's a hoax!" segment of society during the spanish flu pandemic about 100 years ago. That's oddly comforting to know.

I love those little tidbits. They had anti-vaxers and mask burning parties and much of the same things we see today. It reminds me that though we've advanced tremendously in the past 100 years, at the end of the day, we're not much smarter than they were. It blows my mind that we've learned absolutely nothing. We're behaving just as they did. I can see the men sitting around smoking their cigars talking about how stupid their peers are much like we're doing here. We just have the luxury of getting to laugh at people around the whole country.

It's both sad and comforting at the same time. It makes me wonder if we'll be any wiser in 2120. I seriously doubt it.
 
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Runs For Fun

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I know what you mean. I’ve never really been bothered by news and stuff but all of the idiocy this year about the pandemic is really getting to me. Sometimes I just have to turn it all off. I’ll focus on other interests and hobbies. Hit the gym, go for a run, dig into some technical hobby project I’ve been wanting to do.
 

lizkat

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Not being on social media helps me a lot. Like @Scepticalscribe above I just post on here and MR. Mostly I browse sports news more than actual news. I usually watch or read the news headlines about once a day. I generally find I'm not interested in many of the 'news' articles anyhow.

Well I use Twitter mostly to act in lieu of bookmarks to my news subscriptions, and so I operate off a purpose-built Twitter list of the Twitter handles of those news outlets. They in turn usually link to their featured articles du jour, so it's easy enough to just scroll through them and launch into one or another paper to get started on news of the day. I allow myself an hour, max and then it's on to other things, and those activities may or may not also involve being on the internet.

As for the more social aspects of "social media": Sigh... there was a certainly a time during which I wanted nothing more than to convince my mother that EVERYONE not only wanted but either owned or was about to own a form of cheap plastic costume jewelry called Pop-It! Beads. I think I was 12 or so. Where the hell was social media when I really needed it? I laugh at the idea at this point, but I can also understand the pressures that social media use by kids today places on their parents: wow.

 

Alli

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No news on the weekend. At all. Not even to catch up. No news before 1500 on weekdays unless there’s something huge and unavoidable.
 

lizkat

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No news on the weekend. At all. Not even to catch up. No news before 1500 on weekdays unless there’s something huge and unavoidable.

Hah, I'd rather read the worst of the news before the early a.m. caffeine has really kicked in... but I tend to agree about weekends. I often save weekend news for Mondays. So much of it seems to have ended up as scripted "Sunday talk show" material anyway. Most of us here could WRITE those things by now based on previous week's events and predictable partisan reactions from the cable shows' favorite talking heads.
 

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Something to keep in mind is how intensely the news is covered. We didn’t used to be so aware of truly awful things happening all around us.
The other half of that is that there are probably a million newsworthy events every day and we hear about 40 of them (this may or may not be exaggeration). The purveyors of news decide what merits notice, based on their budgets and on their sponsors.

Evidence suggests that news organization get a better return-on-investment with negative-bent news, so it tends to dominate the content (news is stories, and stories rely on conflict to hold the readers' attention).

Yes, the ecosystem does appear to be well and truly f'ked, and on behalf of the Boomers, Greatest Generation and Xers, I apologize for us all, living and passed, to the younger generations for the mess our happy party has left. But the answer is not to scream your zomgs and weep in frustration but to face the mountains problem head on, roll up your sleeves and dive in. And anyone gets in your way, kick them outta the way and keep at fixing it.
 

Clix Pix

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I have to set limits on how much "news" I take in during a given day. And I'm not even a news consumer making the (imho) dreadful mistake of having a TV set left on to a 24/7 cable news channel.

Anyway I have to remind myself I'm looking to be informed, not overwhelmed by whatever is selling newspapers or gathering clicks today. (What gets the most clicks and eyeballs is at least "controversial" and better yet "catastrophic". )

So although I subscribe to a variety of online "general news" newspapers and magazines, most of them major metro or generally mainstream, I don't read all their versions of anything... like today's take on whatever just happened that managed to go viral on social media and Page One.

I open my array of subscriptions and pick a couple articles on those particular attention-grabbing topics and then move on through my own interests, which may vary over time or seasonally as well as per media outlet in particular.

When it's an option, I re-order the sequence of news categories on a newspaper's drop-down menu, so I'll see the ones I have the most interest in during a given time frame. I also make use of newsletter choices and tailored briefings where there's a lot of fine-tuning offered, like the Financial Times provides.​

The other thing I do is seek out uplifting news. By that I don't mean only stuff that reflects my political lean, but pieces that reflect the upside of being a human in a chaotic world and one that now offers us ever more information but not always the ease or knowledge of how to filter it.

There's a newsletter among the WaPo's options called The Optimist, which offers a selection of their recent articles where humanity towards other humans was key to the point of those articles.​

The CSMonitor often runs pieces with an eye to other than what in "the news" on some days might seem like a one-way trip to hell that ends tomorrow. For instance I got a kick out of this one​


and then there's the WaPo's Inspired Life column, which is always worth a look-in. Where else could you find this piece.​


I don't regard any of that stuff as filler or trivial. It's the stuff of our real lives, just doesn't always make "the news" because it's considered so mundane or just local. So ordinary? And think about what ordinary really means.... "prevalent" comes to mind.

Speaking of getting a grip on news, more USA public schools are now starting to formalize instruction in media literacy as part of instruction in critical thinking. Illinois just became the first state to deem media literacy education a prerequisite to high school graduation.


I read The Washington Post daily and look over the headlines, picking-and-choosing which sound the most interesting/most informative and of course which cover some major crisis or ongoing disaster such as the current fires in the Western US, or which I know discuss something which will affect me directly (info about vaccines and boosters, for instance). Inspired Life is one of my favorite columns and I just about always read it! I also read the periodic Medical Mysteries and the reviews of books, movies, etc. I can't imagine not reading the Post every day! One of my friends, who is a fairly well-educated woman, and I one day fell into a conversation during which she revealed that she never "bothers with" reading any online newspapers, gets all of her news from television or [aaagh!!]. Facebook. WTF?!!!

For me, photography has been what keeps me interested in something besides whatever is going on in the world, doing something either inside or outside at least part of every day, and certainly during the shutdown phase of the pandemic was a real sanity-saver. I can become utterly absorbed in shooting something, then in processing it later at the computer. I also read a lot, especially at nighttime before bed, and that is a way of disengaging from the day which has just passed and getting settled down for a peaceful night's sleep.

I rarely watch television but I do enjoy listening to music. Like SS, I tend to rather appreciate silence and for me it's quite easy to achieve that by simply not putting on my hearing aids! Living alone, no need to talk with someone else in the household or hear what they are saying..... Obviously if I'm expecting someone or if I'm going out I put on the hearing aids and when I watch television. Sometimes I do when listening to music or sometimes I'll just use my bone conduction headphones. When I'm reading a book I like either silence or classical instrumental music.

Hey, Lizkat, I sure do remember Pop-it beads!!! I loved them dearly and they were such fun!
 
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