It hasn’t even been one month since 2023 began, and the calendar is already marked by bloodshed.
Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black motorist, was pulled over on Jan. 7 for what police alleged was reckless driving. After attempting to flee on foot, Nichols was aggressively beaten by police. Three days later, he died in the hospital.
After a night of celebration, of light and joy, family and reunions, the sounds of fireworks were replaced by gun shots. On Jan. 21, 2023, following a Lunar New Years Eve celebration, a mass shooting occurred in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and injuring nine. Just two days later, seven people were killed in a mass shooting that spanned two nearby farms in Half Moon Bay, California.
Across the Atlantic and through the Mediterranean sea, a Palestinian gunman shot dead seven people near a synagogue on the outskirts of Jerusalem on the evening of Jan. 27, a day after Israeli forces carried out a raid on the city of Jenin which killed 10 people.
When we first looked into the new year with hope for the light at the end of the tunnel, news of death, disease and war that took over our social media feeds in 2022 proved likely to persist. This would fit the general downward trajectory in the tone of news since 1945, according to decades of the New York Times and the archives of BBC Monitoring. The phenomenon spiked uniquely during the COVID-19 pandemic, as roughly 87% of COVID-19 coverage from the national US media in 2020 was negative.
News fatigue stems from the sense of helplessness as bad news continues to arrive around you. It plagues Americans and citizens world-wide and leads to feelings of being worn out, overwhelmed, unmotivated, hopeless and depleted.
News fatigue is exacerbated by the upward trend of social media and digital platforms becoming the main source for news consumption. The Pew Research Center reports that 8 out of 10 Americans get their news from a digital device and nearly half of Americans get their news specifically from social media. In the realm of social media, catchy and provocative headlines are hugely important to grabbing viewers’ attention in a limited timespan. Knowing this, platforms like Facebook have begun to specifically promote emotionally evocative news stories to maintain user engagement.
With the odds of avoiding negative information turned against us, how do we cope under the current news climate? Kristen Lee, teaching professor of behavioral science at Northeastern University and author of “Worth the Risk: How to Microdose Bravery to Grow Resilience, Connect More, and Offer Yourself to the World,” suggests that practicing mindfulness and mental resilience can be of great support.
“The micro-strategies, if you will, the break rituals, the small things we can do that have a positive cumulative effect,” Lee told the Northeastern Global News.
Begin by setting boundaries for news consumption. Designate times of day or amounts of time to dedicate to reading news, and avoid starting or ending your day by consuming news. Furthermore, you could uninstall apps on your phone that provide constant news notifications to calm your digital spaces.
Also, practice media literacy, and consider whether the news outlets you consume are trustworthy and valuable. Sensationalist news sources carry media bias, and are also more likely to take an emotional toll on their audience. All Sides, a media solutions company that identifies bias in news, recommends that readers steer away from sources that include excessive emotional language, intentionally leave out crucial information, misrepresent information out of context, practice fear-mongering or scapegoating, or cite highly partisan, pessimistic or pseudoscientific voices as fact.
As we alter our own habits of news consumption, it is also crucial to remember that the onus is not just on consumers. Journalists need to report truthfully and responsibly. Terrifying readers may boost numbers and finances, but that falls far short of ethical journalism’s expectations.