Liz Foster ’22
I consider myself to be the last person in a room to make an argument against the Internet and its endless terrain, yet the age of information, and misinformation, may destroy everything I hold near and dear about the world wide web. It’s too easy to receive bad news. I willingly select to expect a minimum of two emails a day from The New York Times chronicling everything that went, or is going, wrong. I wake up, I read my morning briefing, sometimes followed by more specific updates on subjects such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic or the upcoming presidential election. I’m greeted most often with nothing but disappointment and fear. Threats to democracy, death counts soaring over 1,000,000, and the plethora of attacks on human rights throughout the world (see China, Armenia, Palestine)—and the very “freedom” that the United States proudly asserts as the foundation of the nation itself—are just a few bits of information that lodge themselves into my brain from sunrise until sunset.
It’s unfair how easy it is to discover bad news. I imagine centuries of the past when people waited for messengers, or even physical newspapers, to carry only bits of information. Now I can Google everything wrong with the world and steep in the anxiety of existence in just a matter of mere moments. Citizens could easily ignore what was wrong if it was not directly impacting them and their livelihood. At times, I feel selfish and riddled with self-pity when I want to stop knowing. To understand the sheer amount of suffering throughout the globe and to feel so powerless in the face of all of it, to be thrown words like “just vote!” and “we’ll pack the court” by your consistently disappointing party of choice, to be able to count down the planet’s death via a billboard (that may or may not be fully accurate)—it’s too much. One can only dwell in moments of misery, death, and tragedy for so long before it begins to impact their regular view of the world. The rose-tinted glasses are now muddied. Trauma porn rules our news cycle and is ruining our brains. No matter where the source, disregarding the angle, bad news spreads like the plague.
Trinity’s gates offer no protection from this absurd and upsetting news. As the campus moves into code orange, thus restricting resources such as the athletic center and the library, fewer and fewer options remain for distressing on campus. With the majority of people sheltered in their dorms, either for mandatory or self-imposed quarantine, general unwellness permeates all too well throughout campus. I’ve watched people who haven’t batted an eyelash at essentially anything break down due to the overwhelming feeling of existing in our current world. Even our on-campus reality is becoming uncomfortable and uncertain.
But my reason for writing now isn’t to preach about how and why the world is ending. There is no solution to the perma-crisis mode that rules the airwaves and the numerically coded screens glued to our palms. There may have been times when the world was this chaotic—see the coexistence of World War I and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic—but I cannot imagine information and awareness spreading with the ferocity of 2020. With unlimited access to knowledge, humanity suffocates under the weight of cognizance. Freaking out appears the only reasonable response to times like this. The sensation of existing in our ronaverse, riddled with conflict in every walk of life, creates a gaggle of symptoms akin to anxiety or panic attacks combined with lethargy and a general lack of motivation, wrote Tara Haelle in her article “Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted — It’s Why You Feel Awful.” Haelle similarly asks how we can expect a semblance of normalcy in times like these.
If life is so “strange” and “unprecedented,” then how can we pretend that they’re not? To my professors and peers, I must ask, do you really find anything normal anymore? How is one supposed to study for an exam when they are, for lack of better words, tweaking over their physical and mental health, their rights, their loved ones, their way of being, the planet they inhabit? We are strapped into a roller coaster ride of negative feedback loops filled with nothing but evil truths, scary lies, and general untrustworthy, uncomfortableness. The entire world is a Sunday Scary and humanity woke up at 10 a.m., groggy eyed and without the sweet comfort of a hearty breakfast or lunch—or brunch. It’s hard not to be a Negative Nelly. We’re at a collective breaking point. There appears no finish line for this way of being and at this point, I don’t know if the race is going to end. I cannot encourage nihilism, but neither can I ignore the growing clouds casting shadows over the College and greater community.