As a certified "news junkie," I can understand how distracting the constant flow of information into our lives can be. Things these days seem to be happening so quickly, and situations evolving so rapidly, that it can keep our eyes glued to our televisions, our computers or our smartphones.
As I indicated, I fall prey to this myself. When something is going on in the realm of politics or science, it is really tempting to pull out my smartphone and get on the internet to find out what has happened in the last few minutes.
But at the same time, I have to realize that information, especially that kind of information contained in the news reports and feeds, is really not as helpful as some pretend that it is. Real news, fake news, propaganda, nuanced reporting and even "alternative facts" are blasted at us with the same exact intensity and without any warning labels to identify which is which.
Sometimes what I see as I scan the news feeds frustrates me, and sometimes it encourages me. Sometimes it makes me smile, and sometimes it makes me want to throw my phone across the room in dismay. But very little of the news makes my life better enough, or fuller enough, or enables me to take more clear action enough to allow myself to become so completely absorbed into it.
And, at the same time, an obsession with the latest information can actually keep me from being effective as a representative of God's kingdom. When I allow my mind and emotions to get caught up in following the latest breaking news on something or other, there is no way for me to focus at the same time on making disciples, or showing the love of God to my neighbor. As I walk around with my phone in hand, eyes glued to the 5-inch screen, I am very likely walking right past people who could really use a word of encouragement, a message of hope or an act of love. Sometimes they are fearful because of the same news that I am pursuing so doggedly, but I miss seeing the pain in their eyes, because my attention is elsewhere, clicking from one news source to another, hoping to get just a little more information, or a slightly different slant on the story.
One of the areas that I have been challenging myself to work on this year is being more present to the people around me each day. And I am quickly realizing that one of the key ways that I can do that is by breaking myself free from my addiction to the latest news. If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that not much changes to any significant degree over the course of a couple of hours. And I can use the time that I would have previously had my eyes locked onto my phone to look at the people around me instead, to really give myself a chance to see how they are doing, and where there might be a word that can be spoken to encourage them, a smile given to brighten their day or even a word from the Lord that would minister to their heart and show them the way to go.