Welcome to the era of news redefined where the line between important and useless has been dissolved completely. It’s up for grabs and it’s stressing me out. News, generally speaking, is stressing me out.
I’m not worried about bad news regarding crime or natural disasters. I’m not afraid of news about the Dow Jones or the shitty economy. News about poverty, war and suffering feel about normal these days so I’ve given them a permanent home in my brain. It’s a good thing I did because every time someone gets stabbed or shot, I read thousands of tweets about it. Every time a tornado destroys a decades old small town in minutes erasing countless lives, I read hundreds of blog posts about it in less than an hour. Every time the investors gnash their teeth because they didn’t heed the analysts that were right about their future, my RSS reader explodes the news all over the face of my iPad from hundreds of different sources around the web.
News used to be just news. It used to be simple, like a cup of coffee in the 1950′s. While I’m not afraid of the news itself, I am however starting to feel the burn of excessive noise levels whenever anything happens anywhere in the world. Sometimes I wonder if the reason we weren’t born into a technological world in the beginning of man’s existence is because we weren’t physiologically, mentally or emotionally designed to handle the result of our own innovations, destined to eventually fill our lives as they do today.
I struggle to feel present sometimes because my head is full of constant headlines from around the world, spanning hundreds of topics every hour. Everything is a headline now. We even invented a tool for communicating that uses nothing BUT headlines (Twitter). Lately when I connect to the internet I feel like the guy who eats food until he pukes and then keeps eating and puking, eating and puking, over and over. Every time I turn on my MacBook, my iPad, my iPhone, the television, my Xbox, news pours in like a dam bursting.
The problem isn’t that there is too much news. The problem is that there are too many people repeating the news ad infinitum. The innocent and innate desire of the connected masses to create, their intent to inform and share, has constructed the largest communication echo chamber we have ever witnessed as a species in an environment known as the Internet. The new and improved value of “breaking news” has concocted a fierce global competition on a personal and individual level, a race to be the “first to share.” Hopefully trying to keep up to stay “current” isn’t going to cause a social meltdown at some point.
Nowadays, when I hear about a “developing story,” instead of waiting on baited breath, I anxiously wince at the thought of opening a Twitter client, checking news via RSS feed or watching the cascading content waterfall of strong opinions that will make up the bulk of my Facebook news feed that day.
Social media makes news consumption feel like the “World News” version of that scene in Office Space when character Peter Gibbons (played by Ron Singleton) is asked 8 times by 8 different people, “Did you get the memo Peter? The one about the TPS reports?” It’s like walking into the television section at BestBuy and then turning on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC across all 60+ TV’s displayed on the retail floor at full volume, all while you stand in the middle of it and just stare.
I worry a lot about the humans and wonder from time to time if we are capable of healthily processing all this input.
I’m not yet convinced.