News articles are scary (but you still need to read them)

16 Apr 2024

Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. And those who do know it can't help but talk about the millennia that came before us. In her column, history graduate Antonia Leise reflects on strange histories – and talks about why a bit of perspective can help with making sense of the present. This week: a 21st century Biedermeier?

The best kind of sleep is the one after waking up at four in the morning when you look at the time and realize that you have a few more hours of slumber ahead of you before the alarm goes off. It’s almost a sort of bonus sleep.

At the same time, it’s also one of the worst kinds of sleep. For me, at least. I don’t often have nightmares, but when I do, it usually happens after falling back asleep at four in the morning, excited for my bonus sleep. Like last week.

I dreamt that I was at the Frankfurt train station, getting a coffee, when suddenly, a whole arsenal of missiles blew up the airport a few kilometres away, sending a cloud of smoke into the sky, so tall I could see it from the station. A minute later, I opened my eyes, not to the sounds of missiles annihilating Germany’s largest airport, but to bird song in front of my window and my cat sleeping next to me.

It was like waking from an alternative reality. So loud, violent, and bleak, that when I opened my eyes, it was like getting whiplash from the peace I found myself surrounded by.

‘A lot of my friends have resigned when it comes to the news’

‘Maybe you read too much of the news last weekend,’ my boyfriend said when I told him about it at breakfast. And he was absolutely right. I had spent my entire weekend leafing through newspapers, reading article after article about the war in Gaza and the war in Ukraine and the rise of right-winged extremism and, well, as it turns out, that can cause some anxiety.

A lot of my friends have resigned when it comes to the news. It’s like a 21st century Biedermeier. There is a small minority that is very involved and engaged. And everyone else is way too much into crocheting, feverishly avoiding any engagement with the state of the world.

I catch myself doing that too. It’s easy to scroll past some headlines on Instagram and tell yourself you’re informed now. You’ve skimmed past it, no need to look closer. I got so annoyed with myself for letting my brain rot in this constant state of disguised disengagement, I recently deleted all social media apps from my phone and started reading newspapers again from front to back.

In a weird way, it has helped. I get overwhelmed by one headline after another being hammered down my timeline. But I can take it one article at a time. A year ago, the news drove me so mad, I had to take a step back for the sake of my own sanity. But I cannot escape it.

Reading articles about terrible things affects me. But reading concerning headlines and then quickly scrolling past them affects me too. And if I have to pick my poison, right now, I’d rather pick engaging with the things that worry me over resigning over them.

Even though I might wake up on a Monday morning, when my mind is still lingering a few hundred kilometres away, in a dream of a war zone that doesn’t exist. Even though, of course, it does exist. Just not in Germany but in Ukraine.

Read Antonia Leise's blogs here

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