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26 June, 2024
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Tired of bad news? You're not alone

How social media fuels our relentless news consumption

Alexis Papachelas

Alexis Papachelas

Are you tired of reading ''the news''? Have you, in particular, acquired an aversion to "bad news"? You are not alone. Journalists and media professionals worldwide are witnessing the phenomenon of "information fatigue," also known as "news fatigue" in English. This phenomenon intensified, especially after the coronavirus period, and is observed in most Western countries.

Beyond the data and analysis, we journalists feel it around us too. How many times do we hear, "Tell us some good news at last; we are tired of hearing all the bad"? But the fact is, our world is becoming increasingly unpredictable, dangerous, and difficult to understand. We cannot avoid covering the war in Ukraine or the Middle East, the climate change impacting our daily lives, or the challenges posed by artificial intelligence. On the other hand, we all recognise the need to hear or read lighter news. Americans, who often respond first to audience demands, have already dramatically changed journalism. The "gray ladies" of American journalism no longer resemble their past selves. "Free" pieces, which are entirely utilitarian, have multiplied in newspapers. Reports on how to renovate an inexpensive apartment are featured on the front page, while daily bulletins resemble news soap operas. The separation between news and commentary has weakened.

The fatigue with information also relates to social media. The average person feels perpetually connected to world events as long as they have a mobile phone in hand. Events that have always happened, such as murders or accidents, become magnified and invade our lives. The constant bombardment of news and "news" can be addictive and sometimes leads to the need for rehabilitation. Citizens often isolate themselves in echo chambers, where they hear and receive information only from those who share their viewpoint.

At the end of the day, those who understand and seek information know where to find it. We, as journalists, will strive to find the balance between contemporary demands and traditional journalism. However, information fatigue is not a good sign for Western democracies, no matter how you look at it.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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