An older man ignoring the news on the television by looking at his phone.

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Why are so many Americans avoiding the news? What are some of the negative effects of news fatigue?

If you’ve been spending less time keeping up with the news, you’re in good company. Research shows that many Americans are paying less attention to the headlines than they used to—and there are many possible reasons why.

Here’s how we get the news and a few reasons why experts think that our interest in following current events might be changing. 

You’re Not the Only One With ‘Headline Fatigue’

The world is complicated, and ideally, the news would help us make sense of the most important events that play out every day. But when the headlines are apocalyptic and every news story makes you question how humans have survived this long, it can feel like a chore to stay informed about current events. 

If you’ve found yourself avoiding the news lately, you’re not alone. Research shows that people across the country are following the news less closely than they used to.

The Attention Americans Devote to the News Is Declining

A recent report from the Pew Research Center suggests that Americans are paying less attention to the news than they once did. In 2016, 51% of US adults said that they followed the news “all or most of the time.” But in 2022, just 38% said the same.

Pew researchers explain that the decline in attention to the news “has occurred across demographic lines, including education, gender, race, ethnicity, and political party affiliation.” But it was more pronounced in some groups, including among Republicans.

The Way People Get Their News Is Shifting

The way we get information about what’s going on in the world has undergone major changes in recent years—86% of Americans say they “often or sometimes” get their news on a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

People also turn to social media and podcasts, which are used to follow the news at least “sometimes” by 30% and 50% of Americans, respectively. While a relatively small percentage of Americans get their news on TikTok, that share has grown from just 3% of US adults in 2020 to 14% in 2023. That’s still smaller than the percentage of adults who follow the news on Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook. But experts say it’s notable that people are turning to a platform that provides a sense of community to follow what’s happening in the world. 

Observers have also pointed out that as headlines about Israel, Palestine, and Gaza took over news cycles, TikTok users started looking for information on the video-sharing app. Gen Z has learned to use the app like a search engine. They look for videos that answer their questions, and their search results are tailored to them by the platform’s TikTok’s powerful algorithm. But because TikTok videos aren’t vetted like traditional news sources, users often encounter misinformation and disinformation on the app without realizing that it’s misleading.

Experts also say that in addition to being exposed to misinformation, people who get most of their news on social media also tend to be less engaged with and less knowledgeable about the news.

Information Overload and News Fatigue Are Common

Many people feel worn out by the never-ending news cycle. When we feel overwhelmed, our cognitive biases take over and decide what we should pay attention to. This typically means that we only consume information that we agree with, and that just makes our grasp on the truth more tenuous.

Researchers have found that people who report news fatigue are less likely to vote or take part in protests. Experts say that by tuning out news about politics and current affairs, people become “disconnected citizens.” That said, just getting people to be more informed doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be well-informed. Journalist Ezra Klein explains that “because we all get to choose which information sources to believe, voters with more information are not always more informed. Sometimes, they’re just more completely and profoundly misled.” 

When people decide which experts and news sources to trust, their instinct isn’t to look for someone who will help them figure out what to believe or how to make sense of an issue, according to Klein. Instead, they’re looking for someone who will confirm what they already believe to be true.

People Perceive the News as Too Negative

Another reason that people may be consuming less news is that it feels stressful to follow stories about what’s going wrong in the world. Staying attentive to news on war and human tragedy can be painful. Constant updates can feel invasive and relentless and result in “headline stress.” The constant barrage of negative headlines can make your brain feel a sense of threat, which prompts a physiological stress response. If this happens too frequently, it can contribute to anxiety, depression, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and other physical health issues

For some people, it can be hard to look away from the endless feed of scary headlines. They compulsively doomscroll through social media, diving farther and farther into a bottomless newsfeed and finding it increasingly difficult to come up for air.

It’s hard to blame people who can tear themselves away for disengaging with the news, since ignorance really might be bliss.

Here’s Why Many Americans Are Avoiding the News

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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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