We live in a digital age in which information is readily available at the tip of our fingers; but more and more the news cycle is being filled with one disaster after the next and, quite frankly, I’m done caring. These last few months have been fraught with COVID-19, the Australian bushfires, the Hong-Kong protests, etc; but this over-emphasis on negativity in mainstream news coverage is not new.
I don’t know about anyone else, but the more things I’m supposed to care about, the less I care about any individual occurrence. While I’m not one to shy away from the seedier parts of reality, I feel like overwhelming the populace with constant negativity has greatly contributed to a rise in disaster fatigue.
For those unaware, disaster fatigue is primarily characterized by a diminishing ability to feel compassion or empathy for others, though other symptoms may include depression or weariness. Historically, this has been an affliction for police officers, physicians, teachers, therapists, or other professions who frequently interact with tragedies and victims of tragedies. Now that people are able to see the fallout of a disaster, those who can be subject to disaster fatigue has expanded from individuals who directly interact with victims, to the average Joe reading the news on their phone.
Unlike the people of these professions, most do not have the training to handle the symptoms of disaster fatigue and therefore, may not even realize they are afflicted. For young people especially, the constant feeling that the world is on the brink of calamity really drags down any sense of optimism. If the world is set to destroy itself at any minute, why should I put any effort into a future that won’t happen? It’s a depressing reality that more and more people are becoming demotivated to pursue future goals due to the concern that their life will not contribute much to bettering the world.
Diminishing motivation is not the only symptom of disaster fatigue however, others include stress, depression, and fatigue. In general, disaster fatigue can be very detrimental to a person’s overall mental health, which can be attributed to the over working of adrenal glands from being exposed to constant stressors, slowing their activity and manifesting as fatigue and weariness.
Perhaps I’m projecting, but I’ve seen myself become more of a pessimist as the years go on, and it’s really hard to feel bad for any particular group when it seems like everyone is constantly on the brink of ruin. My hope, however, is that someone feeling the same way realizes that this is a diagnosable and thankfully curable woe.
Because disaster fatigue has a very defined cause, it is easier to self diagnose oneself and work to remedy it. A lot of recommended cures involve activities that are often wrongfully presented as cures to clinical depression. These include peaceful meditation, talking it out, and distancing yourself from the stressor. Overall, even if the good parts of the world aren’t as heavily featured as the bad, they still exist and it’s on us to find and enjoy them. While I would encourage you to find something fun to do over spring break, we’ve all seen the news.