Dear Betty: I can't make heads or tails out of the news (ken grotewiel)

    Can you help me please?


       Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

    Betty Johnson is a nationally syndicated help columnist, in the tradition of ‘Dear Abby’. There is no connection of any kind between Betty and Abby, financially or otherwise, and for good reason.

    Dear Betty: I’m a big fan of your advice column. I’ve never written to you about any problem of mine but today I am. You see, I am overwhelmed by all the news I’m faced with every day. And I can’t seem to escape it or make any real sense of it. Worse yet, I don’t know who and what to believe.

    So many posts and emails

    It starts first thing in the morning when I just look at my phone to check the weather and before I know it an hour has gone by looking at lots of posts and emails. Some of it’s nice, like weddings and the like. Then there is news, for example, that the shooter in the Texas school was shot by a father of one of the kids when the police didn’t act. True or not, this is the kind of this stuff coming from my friends. This is one time I didn’t send it along its merry way because I later found out it wasn’t true.

    And then there’s the Cable News

    I do like one of the Cable news channels because I agree with them a lot. Though they can go on and on and that starts to get to me sometimes. I can’t tell what is true, what is not, or how much of it is true. Do they even have any real facts behind their stories? I sure hope so. It does seem that they are telling me what I want to hear, because that’s not what the news is, is it?

    My problem is that all this news overwhelms me, and it tends to make me sad or mad, and I don’t even know exactly why. It’s discombobulating. I just wish there were some facts I could count on these days.

    What should I do, Betty? I don’t want to give up on the news or my friends, but it does get me so worked up.

    Signed: Sad and Mad

    Dear Sad and Mad:

    It is not fun to be ‘out of your element’ when you strategically try to make the most of your lifestyle with the phone and computer. It’s hard to put your best face forward when you get all “worked up” every day. Am I rightfully on track? I surely hope so as I will try to respond with grace to your very good concerns.

    Your friends on the internet are likely like most friends on the internet. They jump before they think, to coin a phrase. Maybe they all should partake in a training session about manners on the internet. Some do’s and don’ts maybe. For example, it would be an advantageous start to stop dispatching stuff forward without even thinking about whether it’s true. It’s easy to send an internet ditty on and feel a little bit better about yourself, even if doesn’t really last a meaningful amount of time.

    So much to digest

    And to the TV news you so elegantly referred to in your letter, I think you described feelings that are shared by many of my readers and more. What is a fact, when you completely think about it? And is it a fact only because it’s repeated over and over so ceremonially on the network you watch? And if this makes you sad or mad, maybe it would be good to be careful about what you ingest into your well-being. Kind of like eating a big bowl of ice cream before bed. It may seem like a supremely good idea when you do it, but later maybe not such an exceptional one.

    Perhaps a news diet?

    I wish I could wittingly direct you to somebody for help, like groups that benefit people who have a problem with alcohol or abusing others. Unfortunately, nonetheless, I don’t know of any such discernable group helping people like you sift through what is a fact and what is not. If the internet or TV makes you “sad or mad”, though, maybe it would be useable and functionable to start a news diet, and ingest less and less, and then see how you feel. If it’s better, then you may have found an extemporaneously soothing formula for not letting all the news get you down.


    Betty Johnson, Elite Help Columnist

    P.S. If you have a problem that you would like Betty to address, pen a letter in the comment section for this story that outlines your problem. Betty will do her best to respond, and maybe your letter will be the basis for another ‘Dear Betty” column.


    Ken Grotewiel writes for the publication Our Sacred Democracy on Medium and is a Founding Member of the None of the Above Society.

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