Life can be stressful. As we're starting to get back to school, stressors are piling up: classes, clubs, and just college in general. But something that I am continually stressed about is the news.
This may seem ridiculous to some. Why worry about things you can't impact or get stressed about things that aren't your problem? The news shouldn't be stressful, because you can so easily turn it off. But here's the thing: it's not that simple to avoid.
Firstly, I am a firm believer that it's a person's responsibility to be informed about the world and about your community. People may not enjoy it, but it's important to understand what's happening and what your impact on that may be. Especially because we live in a democracy, where it's our civic duty to not only understand what we're voting for, but also to hold our representatives accountable. It's not easy for me to simply "turn off" the news because I feel obligated to be informed.
Secondly, it's much harder to be ignorant when you're older. When we're younger, it's incredibly easy to be oblivious. I was alive during the Great Recession, and I was alive throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Did I care or even bother to understand what was happening at that time? Not at all.
Now that I've gotten older, I have the burden of knowledge, of knowing and understanding terrible events and circumstances that continue to happen around the world.
Even if I'm unaware of something in particular, I still understand that terrible things happen all the time.
And lastly, my access to the internet, to 24/7 news, to social media, makes news seemingly inescapable. I am constantly bombarded by wars, genocide, and information about all the "isms", and sometimes it feels impossible to get on Instagram or TikTok and not be informed. It can be helpful, sure, but oftentimes it can be equally overwhelming. I'll scroll through my feed or click on people's stories, and see the new conflict that's killing hundreds, or the next shooting, or this politician who got away with sexual assault, and sometimes I. Just. Can't.
And it's really hard, because I feel so guilty trying to ignore other people's struggles. I have it easy; I get to go to college, have support from friends and family, and live a happy and normal life. I get to be privileged, and yet I cannot gather the strength to read about other people's struggles? I can't even bear to stay informed for them? It makes me feel weak, it makes me feel alone, but most of all I hate that I feel helpless.
If you've felt similar to me at all, know that you are none of these things. You are not weak. You are not alone. You are not helpless.
If you feel like you're weak because your heart bleeds for every victim you hear about on the news, or you end up crying after reading some news articles, know that the exact opposite is true. You're hurt for others because you care. You empathize with them, and that can be really painful but also really powerful. It's also very exhausting. Never feel weak for caring or needing a break from the pain.
It's strength that allows people to care, not weakness.
Not only are you strong, but you aren't alone in the slightest. This feeling is absolutely normal. In fact, according to a 2019 survey done by the American Psychological Association, about 54% of Americans say they want to stay informed about the news, but following it causes them stress. So while you may feel isolated by your exhaustion with the news, chances are that some of your friends feel the exact same way. The news can be extremely draining, and you aren't alone in your exhaustion.
And while I don't want you to feel helpless, there's a stark difference between things we can impact and things we cannot. For example, if a shooting happened, there's nothing you can conceivably do (barring the use of a time machine) to change what happened. There's simply not.
However, if it makes you feel better to donate to families or organizations or help with a memorial, that is something that has an immense impact. This is what helps me when I feel like nothing I do matters. Focus on what you can do, and try not to worry about what you can't change.
Sometimes it's really empowering to help in the smallest ways, and sometimes it's empowering to leave something where it is.
So, if you need to turn off the news or take a break from social media, do it. You aren't a bad person, and you aren't weak. Sometimes the world is overwhelming and sad, and it's Ok to want to get away from that. Go read a book, or listen to music, or even go bike riding outside. Talk to your friends, get away from your computer. It's OK to get away from the news.