Riding a bullet train in Japan years ago, I admired the distant rural scenery moving by at two miles per minute. Until, that is, I happened to focus closer to the window, counting the phone poles zipping by at 120 miles an hour.
In less than a minute I was dizzy and nauseous.
Apparently, many of us feel that way under the sensory assault of today’s flash-mob news cycles, overwhelmed by the daily flood of news.
You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the overwhelming majority of conscientious news consumers who sense so many stories flashing by their eyes at such speed. It’s an overwhelming sensory overload. As with those Japanese phone poles, the eyes can’t track the stories. And the mind is confounded.
A new survey by the Pew Research Center finds almost seven-in-ten Americans (68 percent) are feeling worn out by the flood of news coming at them these days. Only three-in-ten like the flood.
Americans felt much the same during the 2016 presidential campaign. But that at least had a definite end.
This may not be a specific Trump strategy. But the coincidental impacts of people tracking so many stories at once and the resulting tuning-out by many might help explain how this president dodges the damages that negative news once caused during more deliberate news cycles in the past.
Interestingly, the survey found that while majorities on both sides of U.S. politics feel worn out, those who feel the most overwhelmed are on the right side of the political spectrum. They’re the ones who might be expected to pay the closest attention to the news stream emanating from the Trump White House, the phone poles flashing by, so to speak.
Seventy-seven percent of them feel worn out by the news flow, perhaps because they try to keep up with it more. Although Pew’s data seems to contradict that notion.
This compares to only 61 percent over on the left side, perhaps because they’re so disgusted by the political scene they pay less attention less often.
Other nuggets: Those who view mainstream media less favorably feel the most worn out. So do white Americans, nearly three-quarters of whom (73 percent) feel exhausted by the news.
That’s significantly higher than the fatigue expressed by Hispanics or blacks, both at 55 percent. Women (71 percent) feel more fatigued than men (64 percent).
Education does not seem to figure much into news fatigue. High school attendees (66 percent), those with some college (67 percent) and those with graduate studies (70 percent) are grouped pretty tightly.
They’re still a significant number, but those with the least news fatigue are – Can you hear me? — seniors over 65 (63 percent).