Off the Record: Finding a balance in an unbalanced world

By Shreya Partha

I often feel as though the world is in constant mourning. On one side, I see people mourning the copious global issues around us and on the other, those who mourn the inaction and helplessness they feel against these issues. 

Headlines like “2 Teenage Girls Dead, 9-Month-Old and Another Teen Wounded in Memphis Gas Station Shooting” and “8 dead, including 2 teenagers, in Astroworld Festival incident” are heartbreaking, yet not common. We are exposed to these kinds of headlines so often our reactions are no longer new, they are mechanical. 

Personally, I have, quite unfortunately, reached a level of desensitivity to the events around me. By now, the news has taken on a pattern and our reactions are choreographed. Countless innocent lives lost, justice demanded for the families, protestors take to the streets in response and our phones vibrate with the blaring words “breaking news.”

I feel obligated to read the news at all times, but too much of the news can be a bad thing and cause mental exhaustion. (Photo courtesy of First Post)

My heart hurts at the words and the images I consume off the media, but I know I am powerless. The constant stream of news outlets reporting on every tragedy is no help, and the consistent exposure to tragedy often leads to desensitivity, according to The New York Times.  Yet, the more I intake the often graphic and terrorizing media, the less control I have over my mental health. In fact, the exposure to violent media can cause symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a study done by the U.S. National Library of Medicine

As a result, it is important to recognize the effects of overexposure to violent media and ration the time we spend checking the news. Staying informed on what is happening around the world is definitely a positive thing and is highly encouraged. However, when we reach the point where the consumption of media is too much to handle and starts to take a toll mentally, we must take a step back and reevaluate. 

In the past, I could easily be found scrolling and reading the news for hours on end, my eyes glued, scanning my phone from left to right, never once stopping to take a look around. Now, I allot time frames that I let the media consume me and consciously take the news in. 

But the negative effects of overexposure to the media doesn’t end with desensitivity, it further extends to the legitimacy of news sites. The surge of news outlets is overwhelming, but the validity of the news itself is even more so. Not only am I intaking so much media at a time, I am also actively trying to decipher what is true and what is not. According to the Psychiatric Times, fake news can cause feelings of worry, panic and even paranoia. 

In a few words, reading the news and intaking various media, especially violent ones, is exhausting and mentally taxing. While we may feel like we are in constant mourning over the news, it is not always a bad thing either. 

Seeing headlines like “Thousands Have Donated $1.6 Million to Innocent Man Freed From Prison After 43-Year Wrongful Conviction” and “New ‘988’ Suicide Prevention Hotline Will Include Texting Option to Make it Easier” remind me that the world is not a completely dark place to live in. News, much like life, is about finding a balance between the good and the bad, underexposure and overexposure and real and fake. 

Recognizing the effects that extended exposure can have is critical to preserving mental health and deliberately sectioning time off the news and media is crucial to both physical and mental well-being.