I recognised again yesterday what a drain it is to follow current events. Not because it's so hard, but because it is so easy. It's like eating chips or M&M's.
CS Lewis did not take a newspaper for this reason. "If there's something important going on, someone will be sure to tell you about it. More than one." The information usually turns out to have been only partly accurate. It is about things things that you cannot much affect. Most of the reading is about the comparative outrage that people on one side or another feel, and feel the need to weigh in on. While the information you see is important in one sense, because it is tragedy for someone and thus gripping, it usually affects you about as much as you affect it. Not at all.
Lots of people scream at you that it should be important to you, certainly. Many of the issues the events touch on are important in themselves: wars, elections, racism, the economy. But the events themselves don't often give anything you don't already have in order to do something about those.
I fear it is like the weather. It gives us something to chat about that we expect others will be receptive to. It can be harder to start a general conversation otherwise. But it then steers us quickly into conversations that are also like eating chips or M&M's, including conversations with people we know have much more to offer. Current events offer opportunities for mild wit, whether repeated or original.
Or, it leads us to paths of being outraged, because we do like that more than we would care to admit. It's an easy way to pretend that we are thinking hard and caring much. I say "we" advisedly. I think I see this is happening in others, then I check inside my own heart and find the same, which I take as confirmation. Perhaps it isn't true of you.
Worse, it is a path of least resistance, preventing you from getting around to reading, watching, or doing things that you know will ultimately please you more. When I chance to read newspapers or magazines from even a few years ago, I am struck by how little of it is valuable.
Lastly, when you follow current events closely, you become like the people who follow current events closely. Not surprising. High school social studies teachers told us it was very important to keep up with current events. They seemed to think it was impossible to be a good citizen without it. NPR's game shows are largely about current events, and they clearly think that people who follow those closely are a better, smarter sort of person. Perhaps those are only more sociable people, or - and this is what worries me - the sort of person who lives in the hive mind, influenced only by the mild, sociable, predigested world, who in turn unconsciously influences others to obey the hive mind as well. Nothing really challenging or life-changing ever gets in. Readers and people of intellect are in far greater danger of this, because they believe print, and believe other readers, believing them to come from the proper hive.
Shorter version: I have important books to read that I don't get to because I get sucked into news-bearing sites and the accusations and counteraccusations of the news. Soul-destroying, time destroying. I'll have an example coming. If I get around to it. But I have more important things to do, and I simply must force myself to do those. If that post gets written, it will be called "God and Country."