Something terrible happened in our country last weekend. There's no way to rank the horrible stories that so often fill our news feeds, but this one made me feel bad personally. And I read about it a lot.
When I had a moment to reflect, I thought about my news habit apart from the actual story. I was looking at headlines in the Apple news app, Twitter, and Facebook several times each day. I've often wondered if the constant exposure to the day's events and instant commentary from assorted sources does me any good.
It's necessary to be informed, I've told myself. If nuclear war is coming, I should know in time to build a bunker, right?
But it seems the more I know about what's going on, the more anxious, fearful, and sometimes irritable I become. There was a moment last Saturday when I was nearly shouting at the breakfast table. At who? And to what end? What purpose does this outrage serve?
"I'm going to stop looking at the news," I announced. "I'm serious this time, I'm done."
"I think that's a good idea," says my husband. He hasn't been able to watch TV news in years and will only read Auto Blog.
"But how will I know what's going on in the world?" I asked.
"You'll go out in it," was his response.
He's right. I will.
My main objection to our media outlets is the chasm between their reports and my observances and experiences of our country. I live right here in the red hot zone that elected our current president. Two of eight houses on my street displayed signs for the guy in their yards. And though I clearly differ politically from the majority of the people I interact with on any given day in my community, they are not bad, evil or even stupid people. They're friendly and loving. For the most part they take care of their responsibilities and are generally pleasant (except for when they're driving, people are really losing it behind the wheel for some reason). Some even go out of their way to help neighbors and strangers.
The world is not dark. It's not on the verge of collapse. It's the same as it always has been.
Up-to-the-second news feed updates paint a picture of a world that isn't fit for a reasonable person to live in. The stories have no balance. There's never any good news. There's no reminder that every weekend communities gather together in a variety of venues without violence or arguments. There's this constant bombardment of the crisis created by what "they" are doing. Perpetual conflict between us and "them."
And we do need reminding, constantly, that there's only "we." There cannot be two sides in opposition. We all have to live together and we're not going to agree about anything. Each and every person on this planet is "they" and "them" to someone that thinks differently. The news should give that story a shot.
Unfortunately, a positive narrative doesn't sell. It isn't going to trend on Twitter. I've had enough of the divisive rhetoric. I deleted my Apple news app and unfollowed New & Guts, Dan Rather, The New York Times, Bernie Sanders, et al on Facebook. I unfriended the one guy that just can't help but post the most disgusting political blather he can dig out of the Internet's seedy underbelly. I removed everything except for KDKA from my daily scroll.
This won't stop bad things from happening or suddenly cause my fellow Americans to join hands and sing songs of unity. It won't even keep the tumult out of my own home as KDKA piles on plenty. It will, however, allow me to focus on what's real and right in front of me: ordinary people doing the best they can.
And a handful of jagoffs.
But even the worst jagoff can't blot out the good that's all around us. That real world balance will stem the tide of hopelessness brought on by over consumption of media. At least, I'm pretty sure it will work for me. How about you? Do you ever think you pay too much attention to the news?