In the halcyon days when newspapers were the primary source of information for most Americans, there were frequent complaints that too much awful, depressing news filled those long columns of type. What innocent days those were.
The proportion of bad news in all those old newspapers seems miniscule compared to the flood of frightening information that now washes over us minute after minute from our computer screens and hand-held devices. And, as much a source of anger and despair as it may be, many of us have become info’ addicted and search unceasingly for our next fix.
There is now a term for this: doomscrolling. It is that seemingly virtuous habit of picking up a cell phone to track what’s going on in the world by punching in a news feed and scrolling down through an infinite procession of headlines crafted to raise alarm and draw attention. What starts as a quick check of the news often turns into a two-hour chase down a series of rabbit holes that generally reveal the worst aspects of human nature, whether exhibited in the political world, the entertainment business or in individual acts of stark cruelty or shocking stupidity.
For some folks, it gets even worse. They launch from the terrible news about the real world and dive into the darkness of conspiracy theories and fake news that is even more upsetting, despite being utterly untrue. (Go too far in that direction and you may eventually become the object of a bad news story yourself, like the deluded perpetrators of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.)
Is staying blissfully ignorant better than doomscrolling? Probably not. But there is a point in the pursuit of information where nothing new is being learned and it is time to take a break before losing all hope for humanity.
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