The correct way to bandy about terms like “political junkie” and “news junkie” is in a pseudo-self-deprecating way that is actually meant to evoke awe. Calling yourself a news junkie functions like calling yourself a geek or total nerd. That is, it implies that you have esoteric interests, you’re well informed, and you’re totally cool.
Often, as school librarians, we want to spark our students’ interests, rouse their inner geek, and get them invested in the news. However, I have recently found myself asking if there can be too much of a purportedly good thing.
These days, the news junkie epithet implies a serious addiction vibe. Never before have I felt like I have been as physically affected by the news as I am now. Like a lab rat tapping to get a food pellet, I obsessively refresh the NY Times homepage to catch the latest breaking news. Inevitably, I shake my head in disbelief. Then I refresh for more.
Our library subscribes to the NY Times so our students can have online access to an established, reputable news source. We subscribe to print papers, too, although our online access gets much more action.
After feeling worn out by an all-you-can-eat buffet of wall-to-wall headlines, I was relieved to read Fatigued by the News? Experts Suggest How to Adjust Your Media Diet.
The impulse to feel informed is counteracted by negative, obsessive after effects. The trick is to invest in media, but to know when to tune in to what:
For those glued to the news, Curtis W. Reisinger, a clinical psychologist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., recommended not reading or watching any just before bedtime because thoughts of how to respond to it can disrupt sleep. Better to watch sports or entertainment rather than the “worry content” of news, he said.
I shared this article with my teen journalists, and it started a healthy discussion about our “media diets.” Teens are steeped in media throughout the day and into the night—they are acutely aware of how often they burn the candle at both ends.
My hope is to feel like I can regulate my own media consumption so that I have the energy it takes to do good work as a citizen. I also hope to help young citizens to develop an awareness of the affordances and constraints of digital technology—as Sherry Turkle notes, social media and digital communications can often serve to alienate although they may hold promise to create community.
How are you helping students manage their media diet? Leave your ideas in the comments below.