If my memory serves me right, several years ago, lengthy discussions between authors and readers and among readers here at the Moderate Voice (TMV) were very common.
The topics could be as unpretentious as “some weekend photography” or as momentous as Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Generally, interesting discussions followed, with sometimes more than 50 comments from readers.
More recently, reader feedback and interaction have diminished.
As I have no access to readership numbers, I don’t know if there has been a corresponding decrease in the number of readers.
Of course, one reason could be the “unchallenging” nature of some articles. Yours truly does not exclude himself from falling into this category.
But there may be other contributing factors. Among them, what is being called “news fatigue,” “news avoidance,” “news aversion,” “crisis fatigue” or is referred to with similar descriptors.
Neil Fitzpatrick addresses the implications of the first three here, where he suggests that “news fatigue can translate into a desire to consume less news in an effort to preserve and protect one‘s mental health” and that, for some, “news avoidance begins with an aversion to the news…[a] feeling of repugnance [that in turn] may stem from the fatigue generated by the massive amounts of news available to us…”
In general, across all digital news media platforms, and around the world, “[m]ore people are disconnected, interest in news is down, selective news avoidance up, and trust far from a given,” according to a lengthy and comprehensive “2022 Digital News Report” by the Reuters Institute.
The Report finds that news trust in the USA “has fallen by a further three percentage points [from the previous year] and remains the lowest (26%)”, while interest in news has fallen sharply across markets, from 63% in 2017 to 51% in 2022.
In “When tragedy becomes banal: Why news consumers experience crisis fatigue,” Rebecca Rozelle-Stone, Professor of Philosophy, University of North Dakota, explains how a series of tragic events “can recede from people’s attention because many may feel overwhelmed, helpless or drawn to other urgent issues.” She calls this “crisis fatigue” and cites recent crises that have contributed to such fatigue, in addition to the war in Ukraine: “droughts, wildfires, storms tied to global warming, mass shootings and the reversal of Roe v. Wade.” I am sure the reader can add several more overwhelming, depressing pieces of “news.”
I would go back a little farther into our recent memory and include January 6, the continuing attacks on our democracy and the exhausting, never-ending, ever-repulsive perfidy of Donald Trump.
Rozelle-Stone believes it is possible to “recover a capacity for meaningful attention and responses amid incessant, disjointed and overwhelming news.”
One way, by including “more solutions-based stories that capture the possibility of change…” and quotes Amanda Ripley’s “stories that offer hope, agency, and dignity feel like breaking news right now, because we are so overwhelmed with the opposite.”
There are numerous other reasons for diminishing interest in or avoidance of news.
The 2022 Digital News Report claims that political allegiances can also make a marked difference to why people choose to avoid news:
In the United States, those who self-identify on the right are far more likely to avoid news because they think it is untrustworthy or biased, but those on the left are more likely to feel overwhelmed, carry feelings of powerlessness, or worry that the news might create arguments.
Several of the factors discussed above may not apply to The Moderate Voice as TMV is not your typical digital news source as those surveyed in the Report.
Finally, and perhaps very important, there may not be any correlation whatsoever between the lack of discussion, feedback and the expanse and interest of TMV’s readership.
The views expressed in this article are strictly the author’s and do not represent the views of TMV’s owner/management, for whom the author has the highest respect.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.