I admit it. I love Little House on the Prairie. It was my favourite show as a kid and as an adult, it’s a show I use to escape from the age of instant everything.
Which poses my question – is the internet something good – or something not so good? I guess I should explain.
In today’s age, we have instant access to anything and everything that is happening around the world. Now, I’ll also admit to being a self imposed news junkie – I remember in Grade 7, going to school and expressing my shock that Anwar Sadat had been assassinated (which started me on my long career of nerdiness). And, how I tied yellow ribbons around trees when the Iranian hostages were freed. I enjoy reading the news, I peruse many different publications and I believe that we should all be interested in the world around us. I actually get rather annoyed at people who don’t know what’s going on, outside of their own neighbourhood.
However, with the invention of the internet – sometimes having access to the news (and everything else) 24/7 can be a bit overwhelming. This past week is a prime example. From the horrific aftermath of the tornadoes in the US, to the disturbing news about a fellow from the military being beheaded in the UK…and locally – a young child was mowed down by a drunk driver, while sitting on a restaurant patio. Can knowing all of these things really be good for our own mental well being? Does reading about horrendous murders, complete with graphic detail – make us superior to those who don’t know? Do we REALLY need to know? An even bigger question is – why? Why do we continue to beg for more? More graphic details, more political scandal, more death and starvation. How do we read these stories, day after day and not be impacted by them? Do we just stop reading the news? Is it that simple?
Now, I’m not saying I’m going to stop reading the news and stick my head in the sand and pretend that the world really is a lovely place where butterflies rule and politicians are all forced to work the midnight shift at Walmart. But I find that there are days that I become numb to what’s happening. I’ve stopped feeling that gut wrenching sense of horror when I read about people in a third world country starving to death or being slaughtered for religious reasons. I read dispassionately about suicide bombers, terrorists and women who are stoned to death in public. Yet, I can’t stop reading these stories. I don’t know if it’s that deep down inside somewhere, my empathy is still there or if it’s just a sense of morbid fascination to know that these stories are on the news, and not in a movie.
I recently took a vacation to a place where there was no internet, no phones, no computers, no television and no radio. For 3 days, it was just me, some good books and the sea. I hadn’t heard about the Boston bombings until a week after they happened. Did it impact my life? Did I miss something in that week because I didn’t know about them?
In fact, not knowing about anything happening in the world for that period of time was soothing. When I did finally hear about the bombings, I felt something I hadn’t in awhile – empathy – sympathy – a sense of sadness that because of someone’s twisted religious beliefs, so many innocent people’s lives were altered. I hadn’t been inundated by news 24/7, and therefore was able to see the story from a human perspective, rather than being indifferent to the suffering of those affected.