The XXI century is the time of outstanding technological breakthroughs and scientific discoveries which influenced the generation of this period and the environment people live in. The process of digitalization made a significant impact on the way we study, work, pay, rest, communicate. As always, such a tendency not only contributes to the lifestyle of society, but also has a number of downsides.
Let’s take news. Just a century ago they were spreading differently. For instance, during the First World War it could take days to deliver latest information to people . Nowadays, there are millions of reporters who are ready to broadcast incidents happening in all parts of the planet.
And that is where it becomes tricky. A lot of people find themselves in the situation when, on the one hand, they want to stay updated about what is going on in the world. On the other hand, a large percentage of negative news (and in general news has a negative tone, let’s be honest) can be overwhelming and stress the audience out. Is it so, though? Can news really affect us and, if so, how severely?
According to Holman and her colleagues from the University of California, we underestimate the impact news can have on us . In 2013, the notorious tragedy at the Boston marathon took place. Two bombs exploded, hundreds of people were killed or injured. Mass media were saturated with the details of the tragedy – violent footages started being broadcast right away. The moment of the detonation, streets filled with blood – society was consuming this kind of content weeks after the incident.
At this point, Holman decided to look into mental health of all those who were somehow affected. She took two groups of people: the first group was connected with the tragedy directly. In other words, those people participated at the marathon and saw that particular moment with their own eyes or they did not participate but their friends or relatives were killed or injured due to the explosion. The second group included people who did not go through the incident per se but who were consuming the news about the marathon for weeks afterwards. The results of the investigation turned out to be rather unexpected, to say the least. The representatives of the second group showed much more intense and long-lasting level of stress.
Thus, it was discovered that news can not only overwhelm audience for a short period of time, but also have a prolonged effect on one’s mental and physical condition. This can exacerbate existing problems a person has or increase the probability of new ones – heart or immunity related, for instance.
So, we figured this out – news affect us dramatically, especially because we receive the same disturbing information on a regular basis for a long period of time. However, what should we do in order to and prevent possible breakdowns and burnouts and stay anxiety-free?
Of course, there is no one particular effective-in-all-cases solution. Nevertheless, there are some steps which can alleviate the influence caused by mass media.
First of all, you should accept the fact of being anxious and stressed out and become aware of it. It may seem obvious but some people look through the latest news in the morning and then cannot understand why they feel so overwhelmed. As always, understanding the root of the problem is the key here. If you struggle to listen to your thoughts and feelings, try simplest meditation practices (for instance, mindfulness or focused meditation).
The second piece of advice is going to be primitive – try decreasing the amount of time you spend online or at least reading news. Of course, we all want to stay updated but think about that: what will change if you read the news not right away but 10 or 20 hours after it has been published? Nothing, really. However, in this case you can take care of yourself and your mental health.
Moving on, try avoiding triggering topics in the news. In other words, if you understand that a particular subject stresses you out more than the other ones, reduce your consumption of such news.
Finally, draw your attention to stress management which can be exceptionally beneficial nowadays. Everything that maintains your physical and mental condition – exercising, sleep, healthy nutrition and lifestyle in general, spare time for hobbies, books and favorite series – all of it also mitigates anxiety you get from various sources including mass media.
Remember – staying updated is important in the information age. But staying healthy is essential.
Article by Vladislava Ladyzhenskaia *VL – Management with Marketing, exchange semester.
Stephen Badsey “News from the front”, 2014
E. Alison Holman, Dana Rose Garfin, and Roxane Cohen Silver “Media’s role in broadcasting acute stress following the Boston Marathon bombings”, 2014
*Karlshochschule is an educational institution and a non-profit organization as well. We want to encourage individuals and young people to take responsibility, find their own voice and initiate change in a sustainable and tolerant way. Listening to different opinions not only promotes different perspectives, but also discourse. The content of this blog is characterized by the diverse experience and opinions of the authors, which may not be the majority opinion of the university, but provokes reflection and discussion.