Is it irresponsible to limit your news intake?
In this new COVID-19 age, we’re surrounded by a near-constant influx of pandemic-related news with recurring updates on the number of recently diagnosed cases, the number of deaths and a myriad of other statistics.
Of course, the news serves an important purpose: to deliver information to the collective and to unify us in our struggles. However, as the COVID-19 situation continues to escalate, we each have to manage how we cope day-to-day. For some, that might mean limiting the amount of news you ingest in order to create a safe, insular space in your own world that is free from any larger anxieties.
But choosing to limit one’s news intake raises an important question: is it irresponsible to do so? If we accept that we have a duty, be it legal or moral, to stay informed and abide by the instructions instituted by government and healthcare officials, does limiting how much news we consume infringe upon that pre-existing duty? In other words, is it possible to strike a balance between being dutifully informed and being blissfully ignorant? Or is that just wishful thinking?
These are questions I’ve been grappling with over the past few weeks. I’m concerned that by limiting my news consumption, I’m living in denial, or worse, I’m not fully commiserating with the people who are going through much worse than I am. Indeed, how can I claim to be a good person when I neglect the hardships that my neighbours are facing? When I wilfully shut them out?
I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that being aware of those hardships doesn’t make me more appreciative or compassionate, it just makes me upset. It paralyses me. In that sense, limiting your news intake might actually be the most responsible thing you can do because it means you’re mature enough to recognise that emotions are finite resources. You cannot give the world all of your energy, you need to conserve some of that for yourself.
So if, like me, you’ve struggled with a sense of responsibility to stay constantly informed, my advice would be to absolve yourself of that burden. Be kind, be gracious, be patient, be compassionate to the people you know and the people you don’t. Listen when you need to, but don’t linger in the horror. You aren’t serving anyone that way.