Perhaps you’ve been watching CNN religiously for its coverage of the war in Iraq. Or maybe you spend hours glued to Fox News for its take on the U.S. Supreme Court nomination process. You might surf the Internet, hunting for news. Your radio might be turned to talk radio throughout the day. You may also read as many as five newspapers each day in order to keep abreast of the current news.
You feel as if you don’t want to go a single day without knowing what’s going on. You feel out of the loop if there is a news event that you are not familiar with. You know the talking heads on TV on a first-name basis, and you’re familiar with all the major news anchors. Yet, at times, you feel as if you are on information overload.
The desire to be informed is certainly an attribute. In a democracy, we want citizens who are knowledgeable about major issues. Knowing about current events can help you to protect your property, to improve your health, even to protect the lives of yourself and your family. People who ignore current events altogether do so at their peril.
However, being addicted to news can cause you a great deal of stress. In addition to dealing with your own problems, you might feel as if you have to weigh in on every major issue of the day. You might find yourself depressed by somber news, adding to your state of anxiety. It can be particularly troubling hearing about a news event and feeling as if you’re powerless to respond.
In order to determine whether you’re putting yourself under too much stress, consider taking a little quiz to determine if you are a news junkie. Do you watch more than two hours a day of television news? Do you read more than two major papers? Have you foregone music radio for talk radio? Are you on the Internet for more than an hour a day, searching for news headlines?
If you answered “yes” to the preceding questions, you are in serious jeopardy of threatening your emotional and physical health through excessive stress. While watching television or listening to talk radio is a passive experience, it can nonetheless take a toll on our nerves. We might become edgy and feel high-strung. We might find it increasingly difficult to concentrate because we are distracted by the news stories we see and hear about. Our stress might even manifest itself in terms of increasing irritability.
The point is, information overload can be a highly stressful experience. Therefore, if you’re a diagnosed news junkie, you’ll need to do what you can to lessen your stress level. There is a point at which seeking out news can become highly counter-productive. Therefore, you need to take steps to protect yourself against excessive stress.
To begin with, try to limit the amount of time you spend viewing cable news. You might have noticed that the news is updated every half-hour. Therefore, you can just watch the headlines at the top or bottom of the hour and get all the information you need about the top news stories of the day. On occasion, you might want to tune in longer in order to hear in-depth reporting of a particular issue. But try to limit your viewing time to an hour at the most.
Also, try to cut the amount of time you spend on the computer hunting down news headlines. In many cases, just knowing the headlines is enough. You don’t necessarily need to know a minute-by-minute casualty count in order to form a viewpoint about your city’s crime prevention programs. In addition, reading just a couple of major newspapers each day should provide you with enough information to have a good understanding of the major issues of the day.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be informed. But taking it to the extreme can cause you unnecessary stress. So, if the news becomes overwhelming, turn off the TV, disconnect the Internet, sit back and relax. You can learn to be a reasonable news consumer without becoming over-anxious. It may take some time at first to adjust to your new viewing schedule. But once you become used to it, you may be amazed at how relaxed you feel.