By Shannon Casas, Editor-in-Chief of the Gainesville Times
In March, tens of thousands of people were seeking news about the coronavirus.
It didn’t take too long before the amount of news about the virus was overwhelming, while answers to important questions remained out of our grasp.
Now, between the coronavirus, racial unrest and an especially divisive political season, much of the news is overwhelming and upsetting. It can be exhausting to follow what’s happening with the same veracity we did when the coronavirus first showed up in Georgia.
Even the CDC recommends taking breaks from the news, including stories on social media. “Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting,” its website reads. No kidding.
Making decisions about our health and who should lead our government at various levels demands we be informed, though. I’ve got a few tips to do that while also managing the stress that comes with watching what’s going on in the world today.
1. Guard your time
Don’t consume news all day long. Maybe I can’t follow this first recommendation, but you can. You can be well informed, perhaps even better informed, by devoting a certain time of day to consuming news. Read the E-Paper or Daybreak email newsletter in the morning to learn about what’s happening in our community, then go about your day doing all the other things that matter. Or finish the day with the print edition or E-Paper. Find what works for you and put the news in its place so you’re informed but not overwhelmed.
2. Sources matter
Be intentional about when you get your news but also and especially what kind of news you’re getting. Of course, I believe your local paper is a great place to start. To get more state, national and international news, seek out sources that are reputable and that leave you feeling more informed than either overly angry or validated. Naturally, news is going to be upsetting sometimes, but we all know articles should present the facts. Sources leaning to the extremes on the political spectrum may simplify arguments and make generalizations about large groups of people. Look for sources that provide some depth and nuance on issues. When reading opinion pieces, find writers who make you think. And, as always, be wary of social media. Look to the original source of what’s being shared to determine a story’s validity.
3. Adjust your perspective
If it happens every day, it likely isn’t news. Keep that in mind when you’re reading about a tragic accident. Though something horrible may have happened, there often isn’t reason to be overly concerned it will happen to you or your loved ones. For example, though some young people have died of COVID-19, it’s still much less likely for those who are young and healthy to have serious complications. It’s certainly possible and proper precautions should be taken, but it’s still important to remember that most people who get this disease recover.
4. Read the good stuff
Readers often tell us they want good news, but bad news almost always gets the most clicks online. Like it or not, we’re drawn to read about the big drug bust or the horrible car accident or the crazy thing that politician said. Seek out some good news stories. They’re out there. If you’re being intentional with your time and the source of your news, you’ll naturally get a greater variety of stories than those who depend on social media or Google for their news. Read about the new restaurant, the centenarian’s birthday, a good football game or the renovated library.
5. Limit social media
The only thing curating what you see in your Facebook news feed is your clicks and Facebook’s algorithms. If you’re concerned about the nation’s leadership, you click on those news stories, Facebook notes that you clicked on those news stories and you start to see more and more of them. It’s a quick way to either get all the political news you ever wanted or quickly start believing national politics is the only thing that matters in the world. Then there’s the comment section. We all know that’s a dangerous place to go, yet many of us find ourselves there anyway. You’re unlikely to convince strangers to accept your position on a topic, and in fact, you might just be arguing with a Russian troll. It’s just not worth it. Step away.
6. Accept the things you cannot change
Do your part to be a responsible citizen and make informed choices but take a moment to remember the amount of news you consume doesn’t make the issues go away. Obsessing over what other people are or are not doing won’t change their behavior. Believe me, I’ve tried.
Shared with permission from Shannon Casas
Original article published 9/18/2020 online at www.gainesvilletimes.com and may be found here.