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TAKING IT ALL IN: There are times these days when it feels like everything is bombarding you, from news to social media to government policy.

Overwhelmed by the news

Another Voice: So many topics — what does one focus on these days?

Perhaps it’s just been a bad week. The crunch of the spring season. The ongoing news about trade and globalization. The bombardment of social media. As an information consumer, there are days that the fetal position in a corner of my office looks pretty good. But that’s not a choice any of us can make.

We are an overstimulated population. And the more it appears we interact, the less actual interaction we have. I run a few times a week more for the endorphins, I think sometimes, than for cardiac health. And I pass a suburban bus stop some mornings where several high schoolers are waiting for their ride to an establishment of learning.

At this stop, the kids are in a line and separated by an equal distance. It’s an odd, unwritten rule with this group that no one stands near anyone else; no one talks or interacts. And yes, a few have their smartphones out. Remember when you talked to the people you went to school with?

This interaction is being lost somehow, but what does that have to do with overstimulation? I think many people are looking for ways to find that quiet space again. A few years ago, I heard a statistic — and I won’t verify this, but it has some truth to it — that noted that in one hour, we’re exposed to more stimuli than someone 150 years ago would have experienced during their entire life!

We’re talking about a time with no television in the background (or foreground), no smartphones, none of the media we’ve come to accept as normal today. Back then, it was a newspaper — if you knew how to read, and you lived near a town with a printing press. Of course, Farm Progress did have magazine brands at work back then, but there wasn’t much else.

Modern times
This is a marvelous, and terrifying, time in history. We’re overwhelmed with new tech, news and information, and we’re all trying to make sense of it. And these demanding info times also mean it’s difficult to focus on what matters. So many things may be pulling at you.

I know a lot of farmers reading this have their feet firmly planted on the “God, family, business” program, with those priorities, and in that order. And that’s probably where we need to center ourselves these days. With so much going on that can impact your business — from trade protectionism to consumer misinformation — you sometimes just put your head down and get the work done. Eventually, at the base, you must do what it takes to get that harvest paycheck.

Yet you must keep informed, too, and in a way, that helps you hear/see/read all sides of an issue. The growing challenge we face today is “tunnel vision,” which means we only listen to those we agree with. That’s not the road to healthy political or business discourse — something we need more of these days.

How many times have you started talking about an issue and then found yourself saying, “Well, it’s complicated.” That’s the truth these days. Things are more complicated; business is changing faster than ever. Who would have thought that Netflix would have a market capitalization three times the size of John Deere?

Strange times indeed. So these days I engage in the news, trying to catch different sources and opinions, from The Wall Street Journal to National Public Radio and more. I want to have a bigger-picture look at what’s happening. And when the news gets to be too much — how many times can you hear a story about a new tariff — I check out and listen to music or an audio book.

Perhaps a little break is in order. One hundred and fifty years ago, we got quiet time — no music, no books. Not sure I want to go that far back, but some days …

TAGS: Technology
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