The dangers of the 24 hour news cycle

Faye Navesey explains why constant exposure to the news may in fact be detrimental to our ability to engage with it.

Faye Navesey
5th May 2021
Image Credit: Unsplash, Jon Tyson
Perhaps the scariest noise of 2021 is the breaking news alert on your phone, potentially informing you of some awful event or that your favourite celebrity has died, because, let's be honest, you rarely get a “Breaking News: here are some cute puppies!” alert, even though we’d all prefer it. But what effect does this 24 hour news cycle have on us and the way we react to events? Has it had a detrimental impact on politics?

The first issue with receiving constant news alerts is that you can never truly switch off. A large part of our lives, whether it’s work, school or leisure, involves our phones, so we can never really get away from the news. If it’s not on the BBC app, then it’s on Instagram or Twitter, and this essentially means we’re under a constant barrage of bad news. That's not good for even the strongest of us and we all know the anxious dread we get when we’ve heard about something traumatic one too many times. It can have real effects on your mental health. Our sensitivity to these events is also altered when we see them constantly; it’s difficult to feel continually outraged when it’s something that comes up on your feed time and time again. Genuinely awful events that warrant global outrage are often shrugged off as inconsequential, which leads to long term problems with how we perceive politics. When you’re constantly exposed to world events, a disconnect between your life and the world around you starts to form, with people seeing politics as something completely foreign to them rather than something that directly affects them. News becomes impossible to properly process. Media outlets also engage in 'trauma porn' constantly, instead of dealing with issues and properly analysing them, they will often just post something horrific with no warning and no proper engagement of the underlying issue.

It doesn't have to be all bad though. The constant news coverage means that theoretically news is more accessible for working people and those who didn’t necessarily have the time to sit down at the same time every day to read or watch the news. However, this upside is undercut by the fact that mainstream media is often run entirely for-profit, and important news is hidden behind paywalls or is written in inaccessible language. It can also mean that there is more scrutiny of political figures because there is constant coverage of their actions, though again this has been hindered by disingenuous scrutiny of some politicians more than others. Figures like Boris Johnson receive a free pass to ‘let the bodies pile high’ whereas non-white politicians face ridiculous amounts of harassment in the media simply for existing in a space not built for them.

24-hour news coverage has the potential to make getting our news a lot easier. However, the way mainstream media functions has made it stressful and ineffective. Proper scrutiny is hard to come by whilst we are bombarded with article after article of traumatising content.

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