(Arlo & Janis via GoComics.com)
Jesse Singal at NYMag worries about “What All This Bad News Is Doing to Us”:
… In an age when we can mainline bad news 24/7 if we so choose, what’s the psychological impact of all this exposure to tragedy at a distance?
Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a professor at the University of Texas– San Antonio and leading researcher on the connection between media consumption and stress, said the current trend of breathless, protracted coverage of tragedy and calamity can be traced back to the Oklahoma City bombings. “That was really the first event where it really went viral, just 24 hours of news coverage, and that’s really become the norm,” she said…
…[W]hen people overestimate the world’s awfulness, there do appear to be real consequences. And while, as has eternally been the case, there are certainly pockets of the planet that really are getting worse on a daily basis (Syria), on a broader level there’s solid evidence — perhaps gathered most comprehensively by Steven Pinker — that the world is in the midst of a decades-long trend of actually becoming better: safer and healthier and more humane. We just have the bad stuff shouted into our ears louder than ever before.
How can we fight back against the unnecessary coarsening of our outlook that may be occurring every time we glance at one of our gadgets? The simplest technique is, as McNaughton-Cassill put it, to “Just turn it off.” That is, take a break from the news. Switch off CNN and shut down TweetDeck for awhile and don’t sleep next to your phone.
This sort of advice isn’t realistic for everyone, though, so she had other suggestions as well. “What I tell people is that you really have to get conscious,” she said. That is, stop consuming news like a hungry teenager wolfs down a Pop-Tart — rather, seek out a bit of context and a bit of understanding as to why certain pieces of information affect you in certain ways…
Overall, of course, it’s both unrealistic and undesirable to construct bubbles that keep out the world’s bad news. But there’s a difference between being informed and being obsessive, and it’s a line that’s very easy to accidentally slide across in an age when there’s so much scary information zipping around.
That being said, it looks to be a good weekend around here for tending my neglected tomato plants, and maybe see if I’ve got enough Romas, Juliets & cracked specimens (where I can discard the unsightly bits) to cook a batch of slow-roasted tomatoes. Have to find the parchment paper, though — for whatever weakness in our crappy old stove or my own inattention, using foil means burnt tomato skins.
What’s on the agenda in your neighborhoods?