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A few years ago I gave up watching the news and embarked on a so-called media fast. It’s not that I have no interest in world events, far from it, but I find the melodramatic presentation of news stories, the gratuitous picking over harrowing details and the endless retelling of the same bad news story from multiple perspectives depressing in the extreme.
In seeking to satisfy the appetite for 24-hour news it feels as though our news culture has crossed a line. Current affairs seems to me to be less about sharing facts and information as about entertaining viewers by dramatising the news and turning it into a kind of real-life soap opera. Opinions and perspectives are sought from anybody and everybody, no matter how tenuous their link to the events in question. I dislike the voyeuristic obsession with detail – the more harrowing the better – and the blatant disregard for the sensibilities of the friends and families of victims or viewers with a less robust constitution who might find some of these detail too much to bear.
A few years ago a member of my family was murdered by her husband. Every time she went to the supermarket, this woman’s mother had to run the gamut of news headlines shouting about the most personal and harrowing details of her daughter’s life and death. It made an already desperate situation one hundred times worse, heaping pain upon pain.
Avoiding watching the news provides some relief from this onslaught but in these times of 24-hour information and instant news it is more or less impossible to escape altogether. Social media feels like both a blessing and a curse. It is a fast, uncensored way for people to share information across borders but its very lack of censorship also makes it dangerous. There is nothing to filter the information that pops up on our screens and we can suddenly find ourselves faced with the most graphic or upsetting images that burn themselves indelibly into our brain.
This happened to me again yesterday. A friend shared some graphic images of animal cruelty in a bid to help catch the perpetrators. I understand the rationale for publicising these images and the instinct that causes people to share them but I can’t help but wonder about the impact on the thousands of unsuspecting people who, like me, find themselves faced unexpectedly with gruesome scenes of animal torture right in front of their eyes.
If it succeeds in catching the perpetrators maybe it is worth all of these ripples of misery and upset but I can’t help but wonder whether the sort of people who are capable of such acts actually get a kick from the notoriety of having their acts of violence shared far and wide. I wonder too whether, far from halting it, sharing images like these inspires people with a tendency towards violence and cruelty to commit acts of depravity of their own, like the so-called copycat killers who are the favourite of TV dramas.
As someone who is in in a fragile state of mind and making slow, careful progress towards recovery such images can and do send me sprawling flat on my face. Yesterday’s photos left me unable to sleep and wrestling with the feeling that the world is a bad place. The shock tactics certainly worked and I was left shocked and shaken and sick. I felt desperate to do something to change the situation, full of adrenalin to dash in and save the animal in question, and, at the same time, impotent and helpless, unable to make any difference. I guess I could have shared the photos, as my friend did, but then that would be spreading these ripples of misery still further and I’m not sure I want to do that.
I really don’t know what the answer is other than to ask fellow users of social media to stop and think really hard before sharing such images. Without a doubt we need to try and catch the people responsible but is this the best way to do it? I’m not so sure. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Meanwhile, let’s turn our attention to clothes. It was a grey, raw January day today. Often I would choose to wear something colourful on a day like this but today my mood was rather sombre so I chose to dress in grey, like the weather. This dress and top is by one of my favourite designers, Out of Xile, bought in a half price sale in Glastonbury. It is one of those outfits that looks much better on than it does off. I love the way the fabric flows and I like the boxy matching top with its delicate silver embroidered border. I am wearing it with a knitted grey ribbed jacket by Per Una and a hand painted silk scarf by Louise Della. The silk is backed by a soft brown faux fur which makes it warm and soft to wear and deliciously sumptuous.
We found some wonderful grasses in the Avenue Gardens in Dartmouth for today’s photos. In a stark, bare wintery landscape they brought some much needed colour and beauty to the day.
Dress and top: Out of Xile
Jacket: Per Una
Scarf: Louise Della
Boots: Handmade by Conker