Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Why People Turn Off the News

Ask someone why he or she doesn’t read a newspaper or watch TV news and invariably they will say, “It’s too depressing.” They have a point.

Scan a newspaper or tune in to a TV news broadcast and you see what they mean:

  • Another school bombed in Gaza.
  • More deaths due to Ebola.
  • Russian heavy weapons hovering at the Ukranian border.
  • Buildings collapsing in India.
  • Syrians killing Syrians.
  • More than 200 abducted African schoolgirls still missing.
  • Congress unable to pass significant legislation.
  • Central American children seeking refuge from gang violence.
  • Mass extinction of humans called a possibility.

Remote and TVThe list doesn’t include increasingly severe droughts and storms due to climate change, a deranged river otter that attacked a grandmother and her 8-year-old grandson, a man dying in front of a crowd at a hotdog eating contest and the Koch brothers.

It is depressing. But some of us still hold out hope. We still gobble up the news, read the comics and do the word jumble.

Not watching the news presupposes that avoiding bad news is effective at warding off depression. However, it’s my experience that people who don’t know what is going on in the world around them often are confused, confounded and depressed. They are like the unpainted background in an Andrew Wyeth painting – critical to the design, but totally clueless.

If watching the news induces depression, then everyone with more than a nubbin of knowledge must be miserable and on the edge of a breakdown.

The sad reality is that as depressing as the news can be, what is really depressing is the way some people avoid altogether and others watch it with barely any emotion. We are engulfed by mind-numbing cruelty, stupidity and insensitivity and we’ve come to see it as normal. Like watching people “vape” an e-cigarette and giving them credit for not realizing it is not much different than vaping a car exhaust – except you know what’s in the car exhaust..

Depression isn’t the villain here; the villain is desensitization. We are no longer horrified by mounds of dead bodies, thinly disguised “patriots” who shoot down commercial airliners or polluted tap water in Toledo.

We’ve become social zombies. We are dead people walking.

We only grow animated when we feel a threat close to home – a busload of Central American children coming to our town; the threat of contagion from a deadly infectious disease; a shooting at the mall where we shop.

People can become depressed when they are bored. But can they become depressed by just being inured?

bad-news2-300x225Reading the news, even for the calmest personality, requires coping mechanisms. Mine is looking for offbeat stories and interesting obituaries. It can be hard sometimes to distinguish between hard news and offbeat stories. But there is no doubt the people in the obituaries are dead. Why else would a relative spend a bundle to pay for one?

While the dead may fear what lies ahead, at least they have the solace of knowing what they are leaving behind, which for many people must seem like hell on earth.





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