It’s been a tough few weeks.
The news cycle has been unrelenting on a national, state and local scale. As the nation grapples with anti-transgender legislation and gun violence, Ohio is busy passing voter restriction laws and debating Senate Bill 83, a bill which would drastically change higher education at the state’s public universities.
Locally, things haven’t been any brighter.
Two weeks ago, Miami University was sued for wrongful death. In our April 19 print issue, we ran not one but three obituaries: one for Bill Knight, one for former professor David Wells and one for Oxford’s Finance Director Joe Newlin.
Those obituaries are in addition to news about a local protest against gun violence and further stories about voter suppression and S.B. 83. In the opinion section, we ran columns denouncing each of those new realities.
On a personal level, I’m exhausted. The staff at The Miami Student is exhausted. We have a responsibility to cover issues that impact our communities, but it’s difficult to keep up with the number of major, multifaceted issues we’re facing while continuing to uplift positive stories on campus and in Oxford.
On top of that, we’re all full-time students. My professors are all gracious, but I’m sure they aren’t thrilled at my attendance or performance this month as I’ve struggled to balance coursework and coverage.
I’m Editor-In-Chief of this publication, and even I struggle to keep up with the overwhelming negativity of the news cycle with which we’re currently faced. It’s OK if you feel that way, too.
If you need to unplug from the constant influx of new stories at every level, you should. Staying informed is vitally important as a member of any community, but so is taking care of yourself and recognizing the real mental and emotional toll that too much negative information can have.
And I know that no one wants to hear this, but we are still in many ways tied to the pandemic.
The American Psychological Association (APA) reported last year that increased exposure to news coverage, especially on television and social media, led to more emotional distress like feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed. One psychologist who spoke to the APA said constant exposure to negative stories could lead to body tension just before checking the news, intrusive thoughts about headlines, chronic anger and anxiety, and less ability to cope with everyday life. In situations with broad coverage and little control like COVID-19 or climate change, doom scrolling can contribute to learned helplessness.
We don’t tell negative stories because we get any joy out of it. I would love to get through a week with nothing but positive news.
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But to choose not to cover these sad or upsetting stories because they’re difficult to produce or consume would be a disservice to our community.
So where does that leave us?
The Student has published a number of articles in the past month highlighting individuals and positive events. If you haven’t seen those come across your feed, I’d encourage you to seek them out. We’ve written about real-world research being done by students, the incredible success of Miami’s synchronized skating teams and how “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” became a shining bright spot amid the pandemic.
Last week, we ran a profile on Katia del Rio-Tsonis and her research on newts, covered the Guitar Club’s Battle of the Bands and put out a list of the best songs to listen to while studying as we move into the final stretch of the semester. Looking forward, we have plenty of profiles on the horizon, plus a special story about dating in Oxford which everyone should stay tuned for.
There are positive stories all around us. In addition to taking intentional time to unplug from constant news alerts and updates, I would encourage everyone to seek out these little brightsides each time you do tune in. If you have more positive stories you’d like to see covered in Oxford in the future, please never hesitate to reach out.
And on the days where the news feels heaviest, and you feel like one more negative story will push you past your limit, know that you aren’t alone.
Take a deep breath, turn off your phone or laptop and go for a walk. Talk to someone — a friend, a professor, a colleague, a stranger — about something positive in your life or your community. If you can’t think of anything, talk about your pets, your favorite song, the best meal you’ve had recently, the trees getting their leaves back or the flowers blooming.
This world is oppressive. I know for many it feels difficult — if not impossible — to consciously push that thought to the side for even a moment to reflect on the good around us. Even for those who do choose to focus on the good, that doesn’t mean everything will work out for the best in the end.
But that doesn’t mean the effort is in vain.
Take the break you need. Read a positive story about the world around you. Don’t leave behind the sad realities that come alongside the positivity, but don’t leave behind the positivity, either.
The benefits will be worth the extra effort.