The answer is yes. Unequivocally Yes with a capital Y. The question is , does the constant barrage of bad news we are exposed to in local, national and international media affect us negatively?
There are some things we can never unsee. Once we are exposed , it is imprinted on our brain forever and the fallout from this can be a bad thing. We are bombarded with bad news via radio, tv and internet constantly. Due to increased technology, we can access news anywhere, through the use of our smartphones. The number one mental illness in the world is anxiety. Could these two be connected?
For many , there is a love/hate relationship with the explosive news stories we are exposed to daily. We are glued to our digital devices, and search for every detail about mass shootings and disasters. We no longer view news randomly, but are drawn to the worst of the worst. Often this news is sensationalized by the media for shock value, because, well because, they know this is what sells . The media is in the business of rocking our world with their stories. We forget that not everything we see and hear online is true. There are in fact some tall tales. We like those, we are drawn to them.
Very few people want to turn on the news and see a child helping an elderly person across the street, or hear about a family that went on vacation, had a lovely time and returned home with zero drama. And so the media feeds us garbage. An uninterrupted stream of it. Garbage in, garbage out. We have been trained to be hypervigilant in this case. The more daunting a story , the better it sells.
This affects us in many ways. It reduces our ability to enjoy life. We get what some psychologists call “compassion fatigue”, and are less sympathetic to the unfortunate occurrences in our world. Watching the news can cause anxiety and depression for some. Particularly bad news. We are far more distracted now in general, due to the easy access through technology. Recurrent exposure can lead to a feeling of hopelessness.
If we expose ourselves to negativity through technology within one hour of waking in the morning , it can change our mood to irritable and worrisome, and as a result we might feel unsafe. Some people feel so vulnerable, they begin to isolate due to vicarious trauma. Research has found that you don’t have to be directly involved, to feel the negative effects of traumatic news. Studies show acute higher stress levels in those that watch bad news, as opposed to those who do not.
We are more connected than ever, and studies have shown that 20% of society can’t go more than 3 hours without checking for news through technology. Three out of 4 people check their phone for news updates, prior to going to bed. If we view negative news for one hour before sleeping, it causes a decline in quantity and quality of sleep through interruption of REM sleep.
And so, what are we to do? How can we avoid the physical, mental and social health problems, which we suffer due to excessive exposure to negative news? We must have a conversation with ourselves, about the ways media and digital devices are effecting us individually. We must learn to step away if the news is too intense, because the more negativity we are exposed to, the more stressed we become. We must regulate our intake, manage, and limit our exposure to negativity.
We can make slight changes that reap big benefits. We can practice self-care, and increase information that brings joy and is uplifting. We can learn to focus on the good news, to avoid what psychologists term “disaster fatigue”. When we hear negativity through technology, we can pull away , we don’t have to expose ourselves to this. We have a choice.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches us to concentrate on the positive for a better mood and outcome. When we have a continuous stream of negativity , it steals our joy and kills our ability to be empathetic. It works opposite of CBT.
To stay sane and have a happier life, act as your own gatekeeper, and limit your exposure to the negativity. It matters.