Another installment in my media navel gazing: cable news is mostly garbage. I don’t want to both sides this too much, but even if your cable news source is on the side of the angels, politically speaking, it’s still probably toxic. The cable news business model relies on keeping you engaged through the commercials. Pushing emotional buttons of various kinds, many of which are anxiety inducing, is the way to do that. Cable news ends up being a kind of fun house mirror in which you are asked to see the world through a particularly stress inducing filter. I think it tends to worry more than it informs.
Cable news is not the sole offender. I think even the most straight forward news outlet is guilty of this to one extent or another. Even if their editorial bias is simply toward novelty (e.g. they’ll run a “man bites dog story” but not a “dog bites man story”), there is still a tendency toward warping your perception of the world. (“Hmm, the ratio of people biting dogs compared to dogs biting people seems more skewed toward the former than I would have thought. That’s troubling.”) Social media is getting pretty terrible as well. Algorithms give you more of the kinds of stories you engage with. You, me, and pretty much everyone else is more likely to click on the junk food than on the vegetables.
This isn’t to say “don’t worry, be happy” or to encourage you to disengage from news altogether. But, we all have to be mindful of whether our anxiety is well placed or in proportion to the actual threat. We have to pay attention to how much of our anxiety is being caused by viewing the world through a skewed lens.