My Informed Un-Opinion

Today I read a news article.

Terrifying, right? I’m sure you’re shuddering just thinking about it. But I’ll admit it: I’m scared to read news articles.

To me, all news looks like this: messy and confusing and overwhelmingly bad.

To me, all news looks like this: messy and confusing and overwhelmingly bad.


Think about it. Every day the news reports on the worst things to happen around the world, and picking up a news article for something to read is like… I dunno, downing straight lemon juice for something to drink. It won’t kill you, but it definitely burns going down.

News articles are full of things that we all hated in kindergarten. The difference is that when they make the news, they’re bigger and scarier.You thought that bully on the playground was mean? Check out [insert some government or business here] and their exploitation of [insert helpless children, citizens, or third-world country here]. You thought getting put in the time-out corner was the end of your world? Here’s an eighteen-year-old getting 25 to life for a culmination of bad choices and bad situations. You hated seeing those two kids who always argued and got everyone around them in trouble? Look at the Middle East–it’s an argument you can’t solve, one that’s hurting everyone related to it.

Now, add to all the atrocities the fact that once you’ve educated yourself about happenings around the country and the world, everyone expects you to have an opinion. 

If you’re a naturally opinionated person, you’re probably really excited about this. You’re like “YES! An opportunity to share all my opinions on a valid subject with anyone who will listen!”

I, however, respond a little more like this:

See, I don't like conflict. It makes my face do this expression.

See, I don’t like conflict. It makes my face do this expression.

Even if I have an opinion–which I often do–it takes a long time for me to fully develop it, and I shy away from the conflict I know will ensue if I share it with others. Especially when it’s an opinion on some political or human rights issue, I can vividly imagine all the other opinionated people out there just waiting to pounce on my belief and tear it to shreds before force-feeding me an opposing belief.

I like to call myself open-minded. These days I’m starting to think I’m less open-minded and more reclusive. I don’t mind other people’s opinions, but I prefer not to know them.

So today I read a news article.

Today I not only read a news article, but I stopped and thought about the implications. Have I formulated an opinion? Not entirely. Certainly not a realistic one. But here’s the thing: I can’t shut the world out. I live in it, I’m going to keep living in it, and somehow I have to find a way to know what’s happening around me. There’s something to be said for being an informed citizen of the world. Maybe I won’t start any revolutions. I probably won’t start a non-profit to save war refugees, propose a bill to improve American schools, or single-handedly facilitate peace talks between opposing factions. But I’ll know what’s happening.

And maybe, in the end, being informed isn’t always about having an opinion anyway. Maybe it’s about being okay with someone else’s perspective, listening to the stories of people in situations I can’t even begin to understand, letting myself, just for a moment, get outside my comfortable perspective. Maybe it’s about entertaining ideas that are big enough to scare me, and maybe it’s about realising that my own world is a tiny corner of a very, very big world.

Being a tiny corner is scary. But maybe it’s okay to entertain that fear and still step out of my corner for something bigger.

So here’s my question for you: Why do you–or don’t you–follow the news? Do you plan to start revolutions? Do you feel compelled by some standard? Do you avoid it like the plague because of the pessimism it carries? (Or because some of those words are BIG and reading the news is NOT easy?) Whatever your reason, I’d love to broaden my own perspective. I promise not to tear to shreds any opinions!


About Elizabeth Syson

While consuming tea and coffee at an alarming rate, I read and write everything I can and pursue my unnatural love of copyediting. My hobbies include learning new instruments and languages, riding horseback, sketching very badly indeed, and periodically recommitting to doing yoga regularly. View all posts by Elizabeth Syson

3 responses to “My Informed Un-Opinion

  • Daniel Morrison

    Hmmm, you make an excellent point…perhaps I should be an informed world citizen. I guess I don’t read the news usually because I am busy, and unusually because the buildings next to me aren’t blowing up. (Not that it is unusual for buildings to not blow up next to me; rather, it is unusual for me not to be busy). I guess I feel that since I am powerless to do much about most things, I don’t feel a strong compulsion to be updated on what’s going on – if I don’t feel directly affected, I don’t care that much… hmmmm, maybe that isn’t a good thing. Well, there are my 2 cents.


    • Elizabeth Syson

      I would agree with that–the feeling of apathy unless some event is directly relevant to my life. I’m starting to think that feeling might also be due in part to a fear of feeling helpless. If I start caring about something, I’ll want to fix it, and in most cases I’m powerless to do much of anything. I’m learning that caring without being able to act is a scary feeling.


  • Debbie

    My thoughts have words! Thank you, Elizabeth.


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