There are many places to learn about the news, such as turning on the TV, looking on social media or hearing from a friend.
For students and faculty alike, encounters with these news sources give them a chance to contemplate friendships and interact with their world differently — and some choose to distance themselves from the news altogether.
COVID-19 leads many people to remain on their phones continually. So, as bad news presents itself, the balance between keeping up and personal well-being blends together.
“I think a big shift that has happened with me is not really watching TV news, and turning my attention to news I see on social media,” Jorren Biggs, a sophomore majoring in African and African American Diaspora Studies, said. “Social media lets me curate a little bit better and getting information from people who have similar ideas as me is helpful.”
Sophomore Jade Monday comes from a conservative town, so she’s familiar with people who hold opinions unlike her own. She said engaging with news today makes her anxious.
“I feel like I can never have a solid opinion because I feel like I don’t have any outlet of certain truth,” Monday said. “I've been really stressed out because I just don't know what to do, or how I can help or how I can even have an opinion with just indefinite amounts of information around me.”
Monday has dealt with close friends who have different views than her, which has created divides in her relationships.
“You can argue and have different opinions about different tax policies and immigration policies, but when it comes down to human rights, I've lost a lot of respect for a lot of people,” Monday said. “I'm sure they've lost respect for me. It's been very dividing for sure.”
Ashley Anderson, an assistant professor in the UNC Department of Political Science, said that she curates her social circles to include people who think similarly. She said her friendships provide her distance from the political information that inherently surrounds her Black identity.
“It’s probably not the best thing that I have limited my social circles in this way, but I think this is where I give myself grace as a Black woman,” Anderson said. “I exist in a world in which I have to have exposure to other people by default. I think it’s very different when you think about a marginalized person who is making their private lives more insular, versus a non-marginalized person, because that non-marginalized person could theoretically go every day without having to substantively interact with a Black person or gay person. Whereas, I can never go a day without interacting with a white person in a meaningful way.”
Anderson said being informed all of the time isn’t crucial if it means that students’ well-being depletes. She said students who like to stay in the know could find other ways to interact with causes that interest them.
“I think you need to understand that not being informed is not the worst thing, unless it is of primary importance to you to always be up on activist causes,” Anderson said. “If you want to still be activists, you could do something that helps like volunteer and feel like you’re doing something positive about the thing, versus just consuming this onslaught of negative news.”
Biggs takes part in on-campus political organizations and activist work, and he said certain beliefs aren’t up for debate when he observes news that contradicts his own ideals.
“Your beliefs can be challenged in a way that your identity doesn’t have to be challenged, so having disagreements about universal health care or police funding isn’t the same as disagreements about transphobia, homophobia or race,” Biggs said. “Acknowledging how our political beliefs shape our social views, and realizing what social views I don’t view as negotiable.”
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