As if I needed another reason to remain glued to my phone, I finally laid down the meager sum of $15 per month for an online subscription to the New York Times. It’s reaffirmed what I’ve known for some time: that the paper’s level of daily reporting and depth on any number of topics is rich, sweeping and enlightened. I’m a more informed citizen of the world than I’ve ever been.
Which is to say I give myself six more months before I delete the NYTimes app from my phone.
Are you media-exhausted yet? Almost there? Strap in, buddy. The last month has been a litmus test for Trump’s remaining 47 and has spurred some very hard thinking about the value and veracity of proliferated news content and how much of it we need in our daily lives.
We’ll start with social media, where the collective pulse of twitter and facebook is pervasive and toxic enough at this point to be repellent. Less informative by the day, those mediums promote information consumption rather than information digestion. I enjoy Twitter, but I suck at using it as a meaningful tool for news. I don’t read it; I skim it just enough to form cursory narratives in seconds-long intervals. God knows what this flickering stream of news!-sports!-FUNNY VIDEOS!!! is doing to my brain, and how it may or may not be influencing my tolerance for solid news analysis from reputable sources. Flat out, I don’t believe we are wired with the capacity to make sense of the news at the pace and means by which it arrives.
Our unhinged administration doesn’t make it any easier to turn away. Add to that mix our human need to collectively share in the Grand Spectacle and we could spend all damn day sucking down content. Believe it or not, the NYTimes was my response to both choking off the news spigot and encouraging a more nuanced, intentional reading of mindful reporting. It’s not surprising that many, many others are seeking this same kind of equilibrium. Still, for me – a former reporter, the news has to remain at arm’s length, for my sake and everyone around me. I get too invested, too pissed off.
I see it as a mark of privilege to have gone this long largely unconcerned and unaffected by the federal government and the policies it institutes. That’s changed now with an insecure madman at the helm, eager to antagonize other countries, human rights, science, etc. This administration’s “What’s this button do?” approach to things would be almost comical if it weren’t so terrifying. No longer is staying informed a nice, optional civic responsibility; it’s a necessity.
A necessity requiring time and work, raising the question of whether or not we have the stamina to hold fast to the strobe of truths, half-truths and “disinformatzya”, a shit-storm of outright lies and abuse deployed with the sole aim to confuse and overwhelm the general public. In these next few years, the easiest response will be to turn away and seek refuge on our own little islands, at a time and place when our attention is needed most.
Godspeed, Americans. May we all find a balance between staying informed and staying sane. And may we do so quickly.