With the rise in news aversion for mental health purposes, less and less people are staying up to date with current affairs. However, one must ask if not reading the news is truly best for society as a whole. 

With the help of a quick Google search, one is able to find dozens of articles preaching the same advice: stop reading the news! Headlines range anywhere from9 Benefits Of Stop Watching The News In (2022)toWhy You Should Quit The Newsall of them agreeing upon the idea that the news is something to be avoided. This rise in news aversion has seemingly increased in intensity as time has gone on, to the point where some view shunning the news as an act of self-care. While the prioritization of one’s wellbeing is of the utmost importance, one must question whether or not this decrease in news participation is truly for the best.

According to the annualReuters Institute Digital News Report of 2021, people internationally are tuning into current affairs less and less. The report states that “the proportion [of surveyors] that says they are very or extremely interested has fallen by an average of five percentage points since 2016.” The facts are even more harrowing when looked at through a more localized lens as seen by statistics such as only 29% ((-) 46/46) of Americans reported even trusting the news. With a gradual lack of trust and interest in the news, we must take a step back and ask ourselves why?

For me, the answer is quite simple. Throughout the pandemic and 2020 election, CNN played on my TV non-stop, to the point where I was watching more news than fiction television. But after the events of November 7, 2020, I promptly turned my TV off and with it, my attention to current affairs. However, it’s not that I didn’t care about what was occuring in the world, more that I no longer had the emotional bandwidth to fully sympathize. I began to become numb to the horrors of the world, which was a frightening realization to reconcile. With a president in office whom I trusted, I let myself take a mental break from the onslaught of information being propelled at me, because I could no longer endure the stress and despair the news created within me. 

What’s interesting is that, in the United States, this trend of news aversion after the 2020 election is quite common but not for the reason that many would think. While I felt comfortable to take a break from the news because I felt secure with our change in government, many turned off the news due to the opposite. According to the Reuters Report, interest in the news in the U.S. dropped by 11 percentage points in the 2021 but mostly within right aligned demographics. Those who feel soured by our nation’s government have chosen to stay uninformed not due to a trust in what is going on but due to a refusal to accept our reality. 

So, what does this mean? Well, it points to a growing trend of polarization. We, as a society, are only interested in hearing news reports that we feel align with our own views (which is a fair desire). However, it is this refusal to interact with what we disagree with that pushes us further apart. Additionally, it simply leads to the creation of a less informed public. If we are able to so easily turn away from the news when we simply don’t agree with what’s being reported on, how are we to have a full understanding of what is going on in the world? How are we to better understand those that differ from us? Taking in the news and learning about viewpoints we do not fully grasp is essential. 

However, I must underline and acknowledge the validity, as someone who experienced it first hand, of taking a break from news in our present day because it is difficult to take in. This is not to say that it is challenging to understand but that the emotional toll of constantly hearing information that is disheartening directly alters one’s mood and perspective of life. A2017 surveyfrom the American Psychological Association found that the news distresses more than half of Americans, signifying that if we are to be united on one front, it is our stress and fear of the present day. It is not surprising then that taking a break from the news has turned into a mental health tactic, a trendy movement built upon bettering oneself by completely shutting out that which causes anguish.

This shift in the way we view news, as an endeavor to take on rather than a source of information, is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it is counterproductive. It leaves people out of the loop on integral issues, such as the Don’t Say Gay Bill and the invasion of Ukraine. Yet, on the other hand, consistently taking in information that weighs heavily on the soul is not ideal. So, we are left in a conundrum: how much news are we to take in?

While I don’t know if there is any one right answer, I feel as though it is all about balance. While I can never go back to watching the news 4+ hours a day, I definitely can take steps to stay in the loop. Whether that is spending a few minutes in the morning perusing the breaking news headlines of the day or setting up news alerts on my phone, there are smaller steps that can be taken. Staying ignorant regarding important subjects is not only a privilege but a personal hindrance. It is through understanding the world and others that we are able to better create change and so by being more educated, we are able to forge stronger connections. 

Therefore, the movement for news avoidance is understandable but a bit extreme. We need to discover a way to find an equilibrium between personal contentment and social awareness because it is through the accumulation of information that we manage to create an informed future. 

As I ease back into consuming news media, I hope to find my own balance between staying informed and staying sane. The news simply shows us our reality and we can’t fully turn our backs against it. Instead, we must learn to live with it.