With all the things going on in the world right now, you may have absolutely no desire to pay attention to the news. And with 24-hour news cycles that seem to constantly report horrible atrocities, it can seem like heartbreaking news developments are never ending. That coupled with our everyday challenges and busyness with life can place news consumption near the bottom of your priority list. I get it! But staying in the know about major world events and the situations happening right here in the U.S. is imperative no matter how disturbing the news may be. Now, that’s not to say that news awareness shouldn’t come with some boundaries because the news, especially as of late, can be heavy. However, it’s possible to preserve our mental and emotional health while staying aware and engaged. The keys to avoiding news burnout are pacing yourself, getting bite-sized exposure, and balancing the good with the bad. Here are some ways you can avoid news burnout while still staying in the know.
Determine your news consumption style
Just like fashion or home decor, the way you consume news is unique to your lifestyle and preferences. For those of us with demanding work schedules, sitting around watching news broadcasts all day simply isn’t feasible. For moms who seem to spend more time in the car than at home with school drop-offs, errands, and sports practices, spending time scrolling news posts on social media might not be the most realistic. It’s easier to make news consumption part of your day-to-day when it actually fits into your day-to-day.
Do you prefer quick snippets of info or detailed insights? Do you prefer videos, photo carousels, or traditional print? Is there a particular reporter you like or time of day that works best with your schedule? There seems to always be one obligation or another pulling us in various directions, so spending time with news in ways that are conducive to your life will feel like less of a pull. Consider taking inventory of the format, location, time, platform, and news stories that work best for you. There aren’t any rules with news consumption, so feel free to do what works for your life! This is the starting point for having a closer relationship with news and being more news aware.
Incorporate news into your social media feed
No matter how busy you are or how much you have to do, social media can be an almost guaranteed way to stay up-to-date on the world’s news events. If there’s one thing you look at on a daily basis, it’s your social media feeds. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or in the evening when the day’s chaos has subsided, I’m willing to bet that you check social media at least once every day. Personally, I try to be extremely intentional with my social media and have curated my Instagram and Twitter feeds to give me inspiration and entertainment throughout the day. I use that same intentionality when following news outlets on social media.
Watching long TV segments or reading lengthy articles isn’t my news consumption style, so quick posts with pertinent info work better for me. NPR posts a wonderful end-of-day roundup that shares high-level details about the most important news stories of the day. It’s perfect because it gives just enough to know what’s going on, and if I want to look further into a particular story, the posts provide the foundation for me to find and follow more in-depth coverage. If you don’t already, try following one or two of your favorite, trusted news outlets so that as you’re scrolling during the day, you’re also getting nuggets of news info. If you want to be extra informed, consider setting up post notifications for those outlets so that you see news almost immediately as it’s happening!
Create a news and current events support squad
So it’s like a book club but for news. Sometimes, the hardest part about staying engaged with the news is all the emotions that come with what you read or see. Consider reaching out to a friend or two who you trust to share your thoughts and feelings with after you’ve consumed thought-provoking or emotional news. You all can be there for each other to help process some of your reactions and support each other through especially tough news events. If you find yourself spiraling with everything going on, your friends can be there for you to vent and engage in honest and meaningful conversations. Hopefully, they’ll be a resource to lean on when it all becomes a bit too much to process on your own. Knowing that you have reliable, respectful support from others makes almost all of life’s hurdles a little more manageable, and having support when it comes to news and current events is no different.
Have dedicated news time each day
How many times have you told yourself or others that you don’t have time to watch or read the news? Like the saying goes, people make time for what’s important to them, so it’s not that you don’t have time, it’s that news isn’t one of your priorities—and that’s OK! If you’re making a more concerted effort to prioritize news, setting aside time each day (or week or month—who’s counting?) to spend with the news will make a huge difference. Routines are a hot trend right now, and with all your skincare or productivity practices, have you ever thought about creating a news routine? I always loved movies and shows that showed the newspaper being delivered to people’s doors and the family members would read the paper and discuss the news over breakfast. How intellectually chic! We might not get physical newspapers anymore, but having dedicated time and space to consume the news will likely make you more inclined to actually consume it. Again, balance is key, so try setting a 15-minute timer to get in the tough stories, then set another 15-minute timer to read a feel-good story or watch an inspirational video. Once news consumption becomes part of your routine, it will be less of a chore.
Engage, but don’t argue
When consuming news, having reactions is a natural part of the process, and those reactions can elicit a range of emotions: hope, anger, disgust, joy, sadness. Everyone has opinions based on their life experiences, and some people are more comfortable than others with sharing their opinions. These opinions, backed with intense emotions, can quickly lead to “right vs. wrong” or “you vs. me” interactions that lack respect and understanding for others. Remember that no other person in the world has experienced everything you have in the way you’ve experienced them. We’re all unique in that way, and despite seeming like a divider, our variety of experiences actually unifies us. Words have meaning, and we have to be careful not to invalidate people’s realities with our words, even if they are strangers on the internet who we’ll never meet in person. Leave room for people to disagree and challenge you. Accept that others think and believe differently from you. Express your ideas and remember that the beauty of ideas is that they are endless and boundless. Social media debates are not fun, trust me. News consumption is much more pleasant without the interpersonal conflict and with lots of respect and humanity.
Being news aware has a deeper meaning than simply reading or watching news stories. And while sounding knowledgeable at happy hour or making small talk during Zoom meetings is nice, the news reflects real-life experiences that people around the world are having. Being news aware helps you become more well-rounded and cognizant of situations beyond your own. News provides perspective, hence why it’s called “awareness.” My first job out of college required that we stay up-to-date on current events and news developments. Before they even hire new associates, the applicants have to pass a current events test as part of the interview process. That experience was the first one that taught me the importance of news awareness, and it completely changed the way I viewed news from that point forward. It’s easy to get caught in our personal bubbles of family, work or school, and social life and dating; news awareness helps us remember that there’s life beyond our bubbles. Becoming news aware is a process and, believe it or not, one that can be enjoyable. The first step is getting started, the second step is doing it your way, and the third step is being consistent. The rest takes care of itself from there!