If you’re anything like me, you find some if not most of the news headlines these days terrifying. Here are just a few recent examples:
“This Thing Is Going to Come For Us All”
“Doctor Charged with Intentionally Coughing on Health Workers”
“Americans are Already Too Diseased to Go Back to Work Right Now”
“Retirement Dreams Up in Smoke”
One needs a pretty thick skin to not find these alarming. And while the world situation itself is both alarming and severe, I wonder if a perpetual barrage of frightening headlines doesn’t worsen an already dire situation and potentially weaken the stores of energy we need to weather whatever is coming at us.
I don’t advocate sticking one’s head in the sand, and believe some judicious choosing of fact-based information from credible sources is necessary. That said, the majority of headlines these days get under my skin. Until I remember. They’re headlines. That is their job. They are created by pedigreed (or not-so-pedigreed) writers who want you to click on their story because clicks and eyeballs mean revenue. In journalism school they taught us that “if it bleeds, it leads”. When we look back at word clouds of headlines during this time in history, we’ll undoubtedly find this motto to hold true.
Beyond headlines though, there is also an abundance of content being generated. In addition to the traditional media, you’ve got everyone cloistered at home making solo cabaret videos and kitchen dance parties (please keep those coming btw), and a plethora of opinions exuding from every corner of the globe. Which means that the news media (both legit and non) has to work extra hard to garner your attention and your click. Fear is a great device for that.
Why does it matter? For me, it comes back to a piece I wrote recently about protecting our resilience and mental energy during a time when we need it most. I mentioned the physical and mental drainage I noticed after a little or a lot of news, and it got me to thinking that as the uncertain timing of this pandemic goes on and the novelty (no pun intended) of making cookies, cleaning the attic, and binge-watching Netflix wears off, we will need to dig ever deeper into our stores of energy, resilience and determination to weather the new “normal”. Doing what we can now to ensure those stores of energy are there for us seems prudent. We’d be hard-pressed to find a mental health professional that recommends consuming gobs of negative news as a healthy way to maneuver through this time.
So to my list of preventative actions that include staying home and washing hands, I’m adding selectivity about headlines, news and social media. If the experts are correct, we’ve still got a ways to go before the light at the end of the tunnel appears. But when we are on the other side of this, each of us will have a story to tell about how our corner of things unfolded. What if we dream up the headline now for the story we want to see unfold? Hopefully it will be a headline vastly different from those that dominate the news today. And with the time we have until then, maybe we can begin drawing the details and molding the morsels that will make that headline a reality.