Breaking news culture in the Coronavirus era is causing emotional damage

Alex Mulhare

As we near the end of a tumultuous beginning to the new decade, the presence of the twenty-four hour news cycle has grown more entrenched in the minds of the public than at any other point in recent memory.

From the moment we wake up in the morning, it has become all about coronavirus. Constant updates available at our fingertips have caused a mass anxiety that has ultimately evolved into a cultural obsession.

We talk about coronavirus and its various implications with our friends, co-workers, partners, even with children who are now being reminded to wash their hands on a constant loop.

It’s moments such as these where we are inclined to be found asking ourselves, “why?” Why are we being subjected to such immense emotional pressure at every hour of the day?

The short answer is: because it’s inescapable. Of course, it would be naïve to completely write-off contemporary news culture as invasive and unnecessary. For the most part, the constant presence of news in the twenty-first century is a force that can be manipulated for social change or for provoking public awareness on matters that would not have reached the general populace with only the aid of a newspaper.

A prominent example of this is the fact that police brutality in the US was not brought into the public eye until the 1990´s, and then it reached a worldwide audience in the 2010´s, largely as a result of the online response.

Although national news is quite often regarded as simply being doom and gloom reports, breaking news culture should not be thought of as an inherently bad development in technology.

However, if news organisations that make use of a twenty-four hour news cycle do not acknowledge the power that they hold,  the constant flow of breaking news can devolve into a spiral of misery, and this has reigned especially true since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Its ominous presence is found when we read the news in the morning. It’s there when we try to make small talk with our colleagues. It’s still there when we get home and our family wants to complain about coronavirus — it has truly plummeted into a source of constant anxiety that governs the everyday aspects of our lives.

The past few weeks in Irish politics have been nothing short of abysmal: mixed messages that were contradicted by others in power and constant reporting of every ill- advised decision, which has caused anger and fear in equal measure across the country.

This in itself is a prime example of the damage that poor handling of breaking news culture can cause during life in the coronavirus era.

The modern struggle to consume news in small and manageable amounts has only been illuminated by the worldwide reaction to the pandemic; it truly is high time for us to take back control from the fear of breaking news that has spawned since our initial lock down.

Avoiding the pandemic and its consequences is impossible, and it would be unwise to believe that we can avoid breaking updates altogether, but turning off notifications from news and news-based social media apps is a step towards a calmer existence.

Alex Mulhare

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons