When there’s just too much bad news

girl at sunset

Column published in last week’s Catholic Weekly:


Last week I think I suffered an overdose of the media. I had a virus of some kind, so stayed at home and spent more time catching up with current affairs and commentary than I normally would.

Every time I glanced at my Facebook feed or checked the news, or caught a bulletin on the radio, there seemed to be more bad news than normal, which is really saying something, isn’t it?

It was only on Thursday night when I was lying in bed, unable to fall asleep, that I realised how much it had all got to me. I’d spent time ruminating over what I’d seen or read about throughout the day for most of the week. I’d had intense discussions with Peter late at night about the state of things, trying to stay positive about the kind of world our children are growing up in and will inherit.

But then on Friday I opened up my Facebook page again, scrolling past distressing or provocative images, arguments and name-calling, and incitements to violence.

There were the usual requests to write a letter, sign a petition, like a page, or attend a protest for this or that good cause. A few times I began to jump in with my own comment, or constructed arguments in my head about this or that issue which had grabbed my attention and pricked my conscience.

The last straw was seeing a trailer for a new movie. Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the book of the same name, brought pornography well and truly into mainstream consumption among women. I just don’t wish that to become the new normal in what’s on offer in cinemas when my children begin going out on their own as teenagers. I don’t want it to become the new normal in life for them.

That was when my interest and concern, which had perhaps already turned into preoccupation, finally tipped over into anxiety and frustration.

Maybe my tolerance for wider social mayhem has lowered since having so much daily domestic chaos to deal with but it was all too much for one week.

I remembered the wise and ancient practice in the Church of keeping custody of the eyes, to prevent us from falling into sin and despair. My mental health had taken a bit of a battering and I needed to avert my eyes from my computer and my ears from the radio for a while.

Our 24/7 news coverage impresses on us a sense of urgency and stirs up anxiety if we care about people and events, or further desensitises and hardens us if we don’t. Either way, I doubt it is good for any of us to be taking in and taking on the world’s dramas every single day. God help the people who bring us the news every day.

Christ said each of us need only deal with the problems brought to us each day. He also said that the poor will always be with us and we aren’t going to solve all their problems in a day. We have to notice and attend to him right now where he is standing before us, and do the right thing in our own circle of influence where we will do the most good before concerning ourselves with anything more.

And in everything we do, unite it with Jesus’s ongoing work of redemption in the Mass.

So that’s what I tried to do. Not perfectly, because I was still a bit wound up, but I made sandwiches, washed clothes and hung them out to dry, made beds, and wiped counters. I dispensed hugs and kisses, took one boy to a swimming lesson, spent time with a friend, and took a little stroll around beautiful Circular Quay that evening.

None of it was newsworthy. But it was good.

What about you? Have you found the news all a bit too much lately?

(Image by Leon Biss)

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