A nine-daylong business journey and in a different time zone can be quite gruelling. All those nights sleeping in a bed other than the creature comfort of my own, unremitting restaurant meals (which is why a cruise is not on any of my bucket lists) and much longer working days than typically the norm at home in order to maximize the time and expense of such a trip. I was fortunate this time to squeeze in special moments with some friends I don’t see often and one in particular I have not seen since high school – that was a treat. What was not a treat however was to have access on my hotel room TV to 24/7 news, a service I do not subscribe to on my home cable service. And tragically, on Day 3 of this excursion, the terrorist attacks on Paris took place.
I used to be a news-junkie. Thank goodness I am not anymore. I still consider myself quite informed yet I have become more efficiently erudite at capturing the news I feel I now need to know. I also realize the futility of being so consumed with matters, which I have neither control over nor the influence to change. But I fell off the wagon in the late evenings and early mornings in this hotel room watching and learning every possible angle, explanation, expert, theory, terrorist’s background and “breaking news” story emanating from Paris. And how is it “breaking news” when they reported the same damn thing two hours earlier? Only one channel aired in my room where several dozen were obtainable. I have friends so self-aware that for the sake of their wellbeing either don’t tune in to the news before turning in to bed or don’t watch news at all. They seem to get it better than I.
If one believes – and I consider that most do – that we are psychologically shaped by our experiences and by our immediate environment, then how on earth can we not be negatively influenced by what we watch on the Internet or on TV; be it reality TV, porn or 24/7 news – especially in the aftermath of the recent and gruesome terrorist attacks in France, Lebanon, Mali, Israel and elsewhere? I wrote recently about individuals who possess the uncanny ability of more often than not of seeing the ugliness of the world at the expense of its beauty. Well, watching 24/7 news can certainly exacerbate that negative assessment of life and I think of the anxiety it stirs or provokes in our children. If their parents are so tuned in, you don’t think the kids are tuned in as well? Are we regurgitating all that we have seen on the news in our living rooms and during a family dinner? How could our children not be fearful hearing of possible terrorist cells prowling amongst our environs lying dormant ready to strike the next restaurant, sporting event, house of worship or nightclub nearby? What are we doing? What is the “benefit” of being so plugged-in to 24/7 news?
I am glad to be home and without access to “breaking news”. The world will go on without me observing every gory detail repeated over and over again. In the meantime I will consciously look for the world’s beauty instead. Maybe I will always be a recovering news-junkie – only one hotel stay away from falling back on old habits, but I am becoming more self-aware and endeavouring to change all the time.
News keeps my bills paid, and even I can’t take it any more. There are times when I feel it’s important to allow myself to be traumatized, because I need to feel something to feel connected to the magnitude of the story. But I am developing an instinct for context soon after, which is where Twitter is often helpful. I will never get to the point of a news blackout, because then I’m disconnected from my world. But I am becoming much more disciplined in my habits. Or at least my news habits. 🙂
Trauma creates movement in us. I see the importance of that for sure whether a journalist needs it to be connected to the story or the lay person who needs to feel pain in order to change that which bothers her. I guess it is all about balance and perspective. Thanks Kevin – as always …