Things are bad again in the Middle East. Once more, the peace process between Israel and Palestine is collapsing. There’s a fight in Libya for control of an airport that has already left five people dead. Syria continues to be deadlocked in conflict. ISIS is driving Iraqi Christians out of their homes.
Here in the US, we’re rehashing old problems. Arguments on immigration have been filling the headlines. Voter turnout in recent primaries has been at a record low. Courts are still arguing about the legality of Obamacare.
So let me ask you something simple and, please, be honest. Do you even care anymore?
Sure, you care that people are suffering. You wish we could find solutions to these problems because the longer they continue, the worse that suffering gets.
But do you care about the details about what’s happening day in and day out? Or does it all just start to wash over you and you find yourself changing the channel when those all too familiar themes come over the airwaves?
If so, I sympathize with you. It’s the same for me. Driving to work this morning, I flipped on the local NPR news station and caught a story on what’s happening with John Kerry’s trip to the Middle East. Within seconds, I was rolling my eyes and thinking how it just sounded like a record skipping. Not because I feel strongly about Kerry one way or the other, but because we’ve been dealing with this problem for decades.
When it seems like a situation never changes, it’s hard not to become numb to it. It only gets harder when news stories are happening in places most people have never been and seem far away from home. Even if it is happening at home, some of the problems seem so complicated with no solution in sight, many of us lose interest. We want to care, but in the midst of our daily lives filled with our own personal troubles, it’s hard to find the energy to stay follow world events.
With our ability to be informed about any event in the world, we’ve become saturated with news about every event everywhere. We simply can’t take it all in. This is the unfortunate consequence of our connected age. It’s empowering to be able to access nearly any piece of information from almost anywhere, but it’s also overwhelming.
The trouble with the information age is that it presents us with the Peter Parker Problem: with great power comes great responsibility. Having the world’s collective knowledge at our fingertips and in our pockets is one of the greatest powers humanity has ever bestowed upon itself. However, it means that we have the responsibility to use it well. It means that we have to find ways to not let it overwhelm us.
Tuning out the news, changing the channel, or burying our heads in the sand makes us uninformed. The less we know, the easier it becomes to manipulate us. If we head down that path, we start losing the ability to take charge of our own futures, to have a voice in where our community, country, and world are headed.
I know it’s hard. I know it’s easy to stop caring about the news when the news seems like an endless cycle of horror stories about people we’ve never met. But now we’ve created a world where the stories of those people are our stories too. We’re too connected to simply tune them out.
What happens in Israel, Libya, Iraq or even just Washington will eventually affect our own lives. Think of how a group of men in caves halfway across the world killed thousands in New York. Consider how thousands more died fighting in places we could hardly pronounce. The events of the world catch up with us eventually. If we ignore them, it won’t stop them from finding their way into our lives eventually.
So when you have a moment, I encourage you to read up a little bit on what’s been happening in the world. It can be as simple as checking in on the AP’s ten things to know today. It can be as easy as listening to the news on the way to work. They key is it doesn’t have to be some grand gesture. All it takes is just a little time and a little thought. But in the end, it will make a world of difference.