I have news fatigue. That’s not a terribly bad place to be in, because it’s evidence of actually taking notice of the world around us, but it’s similarly distressing all at the same time.
Glancing over the major news stories that have soaked up my eyeball attention in just the last month or two, I count: Brexit, Oscar, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Pay Back The Money, Hlaudi and the SABC, the Orlando Pulse Massacre… And then there’s the home invasion of a friend of mine, which I read about in the newspaper.
I’m tired, folks, and it’s not exactly ending.
But news fatigue happens for a lot of reasons. I’m a willing set of eyeballs who wants to keep up with what’s going on in the world, because I’m trying to make sense of it, both for myself and for my family.
Growing up, I couldn’t avoid the news. My parents (were they around now, you would’ve considered them woke) were fully invested in the world around us, and were determined to raise children who knew what was truly happening within the apartheid-riddled country, and the world beyond it too (however impossible it sometimes was to really access the truth, thanks to sanctions and information silos).
But the difference there was that news was regulated and defined by the time of day – we’d read the newspapers in the morning and afternoon, and I knew the start tune of every evening news programme better than I knew my nursery rhymes. It wasn’t a bad way to grow up. In fact, I’m glad for it.
Nowadays though, news is a constant. It’s a tweet, click or refresh away, and it happens as the day progresses. CNN coverage of the Gulf War sticks in my head every time I contemplate the ever-presence of news nowadays. I remember my dad watching CNN coverage of the Gulf War, with reporters stationed at the front lines – those live news broadcasts were the start of instant news, to me. Instead of news being nicely packaged into those morning, afternoon and evening capsules I was so familiar with, news happened around the clock.
That was the early 1990s, and the pace and frenetic energy of news has only increased with the growing number of platforms I can now access it on. Those time capsules and summations dotted throughout my childhood days are just memories now, as I scroll, refresh and click on a hashtag.
Every now and then, I log off. Sometimes it’s for a day, or occasionally I’ll tear my eyeballs away for a weekend. Some call it a Digital Detox or an Offline Holiday, but I call it an imperative. It usually coincides with the Real World that contains my family, dogs and home needing my dedicated attention, but that happens every day too. Sometimes hours pass without me checking my phone, sometimes it’s only minutes.
However it pans out, those little breaks away from the frenetic world do me good, but they also leave me feeling disconnected. It used to panic me a little, but now I feel far more calm about logging off. There’s a lot to be said about logging off and pretending, even just for a little while, that the news isn’t happening right now. I can catch up later.
There’s just one problem – the world doesn’t log off. And as I try to find goodness in the diverse world out there that seems to have very little, I can’t help but think that it’s time to log off, take a nap and try again later. I think we all need it.