I quickly scanned the headlines. I went for two stories. The first was the one on Yellowstone's magma chamber. I live close enough (as in "New Mexico would be decimated if it blew full bore" kind of way) that it might matter. And then I turned to the story of the woman who beat out wrestlers and football players eating 72 oz of steak and sides in 30 minutes, setting a record no less (I think that's correct- my fact checker is taking a hiatus, so this goes.)
It struck me: I'm a reasonably intelligent woman. I don't watch Fox News. I depend on Jon Stewart for all of the news that counts. But I just can't take any more.
The problem these days is this: you know everyone's troubles from your family members to a "friend" in a far away land. You also know what they eat, how they dressed for the day, and the news (and sometimes scans) from their latest doctor's appointment. And then you know their friends' troubles as they are reposted and help is sought through crowd sourcing, as well as the lost pets, or animals discovered in horrid condition. You know what the BLM is doing to the wild horses and the color of a friend of a friend's nail job. Social media lets nothing get past us these days.
On the community, state, country, and global side, not only do we know everything about the nothing going on in our governments, we know a lot about every trial and tribulation that is taking place worldwide. That includes someone in Alabama marrying an ISIS fighter to another rape and murder in India to a woman losing her children in an accident several states away to the latest double murder down the street (all real stories.) Times 10 to the 100th power.
Years ago, we did not have access to these things. The most compelling stories, ie, John F.Kennedy being shot, Martin Luther King jr being shot, four shot dead on the Kent State campus, we heard hourly coverage (if we owned a TV and had it on), we saw the pictures replayed on the five o'clock news on three stations. We waited for the spread in Life or Newsweek magazine to give us a more in depth scoop with photos.
Now it is endless TV stations, on-line moment-by-moment updates, and endless video footage (thanks to the proliferation of camera phones) of every event replayed over and over. More and more restaurants serve TV news coverage along with their food, and airports show the news while you are held captive at the gate awaiting your flight.
In the old days, we didn't know about any one's troubles unless they were a close friend, or we listened to gossip. We had a newspaper that showed up once a day that gave us news in short stories with one or two pictures, if there happened to be a photographer at the scene. We didn't have details and photos of everything that was happening to half the people on the planet.
Why does this make a difference? If you have ever had a traumatic experience, especially if you have had several in close succession, you know that your mind goes numb, shuts down when it can't take it all in. The most horrendous situation can become background noise, and we do nothing.
In that numbness, that hazy realm of "what the heck is going on with the world?," you begin to long for the kind of story like the one about a competitive eater who weighs 124 pounds, eats enough for a dozen starving children in 30 minutes, and is grateful to have done it, because it was "free."
Funny, that just about sums up the rest of the news in one small scene.
Serious Afterthought: There was a devastating earthquake in Nepal. After checking on a friend who could potentially be in the area and discovering that he is stateside (through social media) and hearing that friends are still awaiting news of their loved ones, I am grateful that social media is there to help people make contact and to help those still in need. As I pray I am glad for the updates to be able to direct my prayers more effectively. Would I be happier had I never heard until it was all over? Perhaps. But knowing has allowed me an opportunity to help in my own small way.