Do you have the time to listen to me whine about everything and anything all at once?
If you feel like singing this sentence out loud, it is because I’m paraphrasing it from Green Day’s ‘Basket Case’, a song released in 1994, a year after I was born but before the internet became what it is today, before our lives became endlessly connected to digital devices we carry around in our pockets.
Before you get out of bed, you have the possibility of reading about the Federal Reserve making its biggest interest rate increase in 22 years, the latest on the War in Ukraine, on the Covid-19 pandemic, the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqla in the West Bank; before you brush your teeth, you check your favourite cryptocurrency, only to see your investment is down 25%.
You check your Instagram and reply to 6 or 7 stories with a cry emoji, or a heart, or a big smile.
If you’re younger, you may also check Snapchat and TikTok: a video of a Donald Trump fanboy asking for Hunter Biden’s laptop, making a connection between the Bidens, the war in Ukraine and Putin’s left eyebrow, will grace your eyes, just before you swipe up to see a dance of 3 ridiculously good-looking people swapping clothes in mid-air.
And that’s all before you get ready for the day, and in a matter of minutes. This compounding, of just about anything, stimulates our brains, all the time.
Even if you’re more meticulous in the way in which you consume your content and try to distinguish between your time wasters and important news, the sheer amount of endless important news means you’re probably reading about everything, all of the time.
How much of it can we truly process? Some of us become activists who never stop, and some of us choose to ignore almost everything of importance, to protect ourselves from the overload of information.
I don’t blame either, at a time where everything feels like it’s happening next door, because it’s happening on every second person’s ‘story’ it’s hard to not engage in digital activism, and at the same time, because of all this constant demand for our attention, I also completely understand those who shut everything out.
But the biggest loser in all of this is us and our society.
Because of this ‘everything’ that’s constantly ‘happening’ and ‘breaking’, it seems we have become unable to connect the things that matter most. We have an endless list of priorities, without actually having any priorities.
We listen to, subscribe and read ‘everything’ but how much of it do we understand? I think the answer is reflected in our polarised politics (around the world). Clearly there’s a lack of understanding on many urgent issues (including, if not primarily, the issue of Climate Change). Knowledge is based on facts, and yet our voting patterns still suggest tribalism and fanaticism.
On that note, what responsibility do large media and news organisations have in aiding, not just the fight against misinformation, but also in relating the news in efficient and clear ways, not just in traditional forms, but also by taking social media seriously, and releasing their content in new forms and new ways, to make it truly accessible and relevant to their audiences?
If this is unclear, I’m sorry: “Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me” (that’s Basket Case again).