Do you ever wonder if the world has lost its mind? Just watch the news or scroll through your social media feed for two minutes, and you’ll remove all doubt. The top stories of the day are rarely good: headlines about lies, hunger, violence, and natural disasters dominate every channel twenty-four hours a day. Not only is the glass half-empty, but it’s also shattered with water spilling everywhere. Is it any wonder that so many people today are angry and depressed? While it may sound strange coming from a journalism major like myself, the truth is that the news is no longer helpful.
There was a time when it would have taken weeks for news to travel around the world. If you wanted to stay up to date on current events, you read the morning paper. With the advent of twenty-four-hour news and the internet, our world has become much smaller, and news travels much more quickly. Today, if the Russian president sneezes, you see it on Instagram minutes after it happens, and you forget about it by the time you scroll to the end of the day’s feed. You take in more news today in one hour than the average person in the early twentieth century ever read in one month, which isn’t a good thing. You are not designed to process so much information at once, especially negative information.
You and I read the news for a different reason than our grandparents did. They read the news to be informed. We read it to be triggered. Want to know what you should be upset about today? Spend a minute scrolling through Facebook, and you’ll find out. It seems that almost every story we read is designed to evoke a reaction, primarily anger or fear.
A constant deluge of bad news is bad for our health for two reasons. One reason is that when news outlets try to interpret the news for their audience, many conflicting perspectives are shared about a single event. Which perspective is right? You will either spend energy trying to discern which is the correct one or consistently choose the one fitting your own beliefs about the world. If you are pro-choice, for example, you may be more likely to react negatively to a story about the pro-life movement. If you identify as conservative, you could be more willing to believe a terrible story about a liberal politician, whether it is true or not. People often look to confirm their biases rather than discern the truth.
The second reason is that having to process bad news every day takes a heavy toll on your emotions. As you read of the terrible things happening in faraway places, you feel bad for the people who are suffering, but you’re just one person. What can you do? Hearing about things beyond your control every day can make you feel helpless. Eventually, helplessness gives way to depression, potentially manifesting itself as anger and anxiety. Since almost every news story you read is designed to trigger those emotions, you find yourself feeling that way the more you read the news. Over time, these emotions will not only drain your mental health but also harm you physically.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t care about what is happening in the world beyond your home. Nor am I saying that modern technology is evil and should never be used. But there are burdens that even God does not wish for us to bear. While He never promises an easy life, He doesn't want you to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders because only He has the strength to do that. Instead, God wants you to make a difference in other people’s lives, and the only way to do that—while keeping your sanity—is to change the way you see the world.
First, you must acknowledge that there will always be things that you can’t change. You can’t stop a war in a foreign country or reverse a court’s ruling by any force of sheer will. Instead, you must learn to accept the things you can’t change and learn how to cope with them.
Second, you must take control of the things that you can change. Perhaps you can’t wipe out hunger in Africa, but you can feed the hungry people in your own community. Maybe you don’t like the way your country’s government is run, but you can always cast your vote in the next election, or perhaps volunteer to work on somebody’s campaign. Remember, small changes add up over time, like how ripples add up to make great waves.
Third, you must remind yourself that God is still in control. No matter what happens, this fact will never change. His plan and purpose will be carried out on Earth, no matter what the news says, no matter what men do. You can find comfort in the knowledge that He holds the world together in His hands, and He has no intention of letting go.
So put away your laptop and turn off your phone for a while. You don’t have to solve all the world’s problems, and that’s okay. Start by making a difference here, doing God’s work in your community of friends and neighbors. You may just be surprised by how much happier you feel.