It is good for a citizenry to be informed and knowledgeable about current events. As James Madison so aptly stated, “A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” That’s all well and good, but all things in life must be kept in balance. Some of us are far too prone to constantly involve ourselves in the news cycle, and it is taking a toll on our health.
As someone who worked in the news commentary business for some time, I can testify from experience that the news cycle is draining. The news often involves very heavy topics, and media outlets will often find the most outrageous stories to get traffic from their viewers.
To some degree, there does need to be reporting of the outrageous things that happen in the world, but a steady diet of news is psychologically unhealthy. It’s not just me saying that, though. Even professional counselors are seeing a rise in news-induced anxiety.
Elisabeth Joy LaMotte is a psychotherapist and founder of the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center. She has been dealing with many clients who have come to her with problems that are rooted in an obsession with the news cycle; and it’s not limited to one side of the political spectrum, it’s everyone.
Clients frequently admit to excessively checking Twitter and social media, to the point that it interferes with their relationships and professional productivity. People struggling with these habits typically describe a growing sense of isolation, difficulty concentrating, increased anxiety and a sense of distraction. A surprising number of couples in therapy are fighting with each other about their respective modes of news consumption. These couples report less sleep, a growing sense of disconnection and less sex. And this includes couples where both members share the same political views.
One may start out with good intentions of becoming well-informed, but constantly taking in news is causing problems in people’s everyday lives, including their intimate relationships. Especially for those who live in Washington D.C., it’s almost an expectation that one have a constant intake of the news, but LaMotte is finding that the problems with that kind of lifestyle are outweighing the benefits.
For Washingtonians, daily news consumption and an expectation to be informed about current events appears to fit this classic presentation. Instead of keeping us grounded and self-aware, news consumption has kicked into overdrive and grown into a collective obsession that is creating barriers to relationship intimacy. The bizarre and intense news cycle is seriously messing with people’s lives. Individuals who used to describe morning coffee and reading the newspaper as a highlight of the day now describe impulsive, constant news consumption. Couples who used to enjoy Sunday mornings in bed, flipping through the paper and scrolling through news sites while sharing thoughtful conversation, now say they are concerned they, their spouse, or both are “obsessed with” or “addicted to” the news.
Indeed, I could have had that kind of life, if not for the balance that my wife brings to my life. She’s not a very political person (whereas I am). We largely have the same values, but she’s not as in tune to what’s happening in the news cycle as I am.
It's been one of the good things in our relationship: we bond independent of the news world, outside of the negativity and anxiety created by the media. Obviously, there will be times where we discuss what’s going on in the world, but that’s not where we focus most of our energy. And we are all the better for it.
I want to be an informed citizen, and I try to do my due diligence to ensure that I am read up on current events, but also that I understand history and economics to guide my assessment of any given event. But I’m not constantly dwelling on those events because it’s only bound to create stress and anxiety in me than it is to have any positive effect.
If you are one of those people who constantly take in news, it may be a good idea to take a break from it for a while. Read a book, talk to your family and friends, or take a weekend vacation at a tiny box in the woods. Do something to decompress from the news, I can guarantee you’ll be feeling much better within even the first few days.
Has the news cycle gotten overbearing for you recently? Has it affected your relationships? What are you doing about it? Let me know!