Staff Editorial: Walking the tightrope between burnout and ignorance

With news about the virus constantly circulating, sometimes it feels easier to put on headphones and ignore the latest updates. GRAPHIC BY HALEY KEIZUR/FOGHORN

Today, we are walking a fine line between wanting to stay up to date and complete burnout, at least in terms of news consumption. While some are turning off their TVs, muting buzzwords, and avoiding the news, others are rapidly consuming and sharing the latest headlines. But where do you draw the line for yourself, and how do you decide where the line is in the first place?

This week, the Foghorn staff is diving into how we can all stay informed while still preventing pandemic-related news burnout. As a disclaimer, most of us are news junkies — hence why we work for the student newspaper. But, especially in the midst of writing, editing, and designing pages related to COVID-19, even we are susceptible to feeling overwhelmed by reality.

Lately, every news outlet is saturated with nonstop coverage of the coronavirus. Finding the latest information is as easy as going to Twitter’s trending page, clicking the coronavirus tab on a news site, or turning on the local news. It’s completely understandable that people are so overwhelmed. However, completely logging off and avoiding all updates is irresponsible. 

There’s a difference between not following the news because it’s overwhelming and not following the news because you can’t be bothered to care. We’ve noticed that a handful of our peers don’t tune in to the news in the first place. If we have a massive cultural acceptance of news ignorance, it signals our cultural approval of the trope that young people are self-centered and don’t care about the rest of the world. And is that really what we want our generation to be known for?

With that being said, ignoring the news for a stretch of time doesn’t always make you ignorant. If the 24-hour news cycle is causing you distress, it might be a good idea to mute your phone for a few hours each day. For many, consuming so much news leads to  anxiety and fear, so tuning out for longer periods could be the healthiest option. We recommend experimenting with your level of news consumption until you find what keeps you both informed and comfortable.

For you, this comfort level may be reading the top headlines when you wake up, or watching the morning news, then turning off your alerts. It might be seeking out general information, but not seeking out each and every number, figure, and factoid related to the virus. 

It is important to note, though, that this rapidly-evolving situation is, in fact, evolving rapidly, so news can progress a lot within just a few hours. For a lot of us at the Foghorn, hearing the numbers spike rapidly in between listens or feeling uninformed leads us to be more anxious than not. Not to mention, the media coverage isn’t only minute-by-minute updates; many outlets also share important CDC and health recommendations, as well as other rules and precautions.

Whether you’re an “I need to know everything that’s happening as soon as it’s happening so that I can be as informed as humanly possible” type of person, or an “I’d rather not know the exact number of deaths, but I would like to know enough to stay safe” person, we believe it’s important to be aware and consume enough news to stay safe. Above all, you need to care for yourself and others. Listen to your logic and instincts so you know when you need to learn more, or when you need to sit back and let your brain cool down.

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