How Much News Is Too Much?
By Mandy Parsons
The last two decades have seen explosive growth of broadcast and digital media platforms, making the news infinitely more accessible. According to TIME, one in 10 adults checks the news every hour, and 20% of Americans report “constantly” monitoring their social media accounts, which can also serve as sources of news information.
Is it possible that constant exposure to information about wars, riots, shootings, natural disasters, catastrophes, and other devastating world events can take a toll on us mentally? Is the daily barrage of negative news healthy for our overall well-being? And, if not, exactly how much news is too much?
An Overstimulated World
While the technological age has afforded us many benefits, it has come with a price. “Information overload” is a reality, as we are perpetually bombarded with facts, ideas, stories, and images presented by the media.
Endless news consumption is just one example of media overstimulation, as many of us have the news on throughout our day, while we’re at home, work, or commuting, with news alerts simultaneously coming in on our phones.
Social media overstimulation is another modern-day challenge. In addition to news, online platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram offer everything from networking groups and online shopping to recipes and entertainment videos.
With the average person spending roughly seven hours a day consuming content, according to Forbes.com, how much information are we designed to take in?
Is Watching Too Much News Bad For You?
The journalistic phrase, If it bleeds, it leads, is very evident in today’s news cycle. Priority is given to those stories that contain violence, conflict, trauma, and death. It stands to reason that over time, such information can have a significant impact on our physical, emotional, and mental health.
CNN Health outlines the problems associated with “too much bad news.” Every time we process a traumatic event, our bodies experience heightened levels of stress. Eventually, our stress levels normalize, and we return to a restful state. However, continuous exposure to stress can disrupt your equilibrium and cause physical manifestations including headaches, stomach complications, muscle pain, and sleep disturbances.
The American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” report also corroborates the link between news consumption and stress. It found that 95% of Americans say they follow the news regularly, and more than half of those surveyed claim that doing so causes them stress.
When we are unable to express or process negative thoughts and emotions, we often suppress them. And chronic suppression leads to anxiety and depression.
Furthermore, stress and fear often trigger mental health conditions. Constantly hearing or reading about tragedy can be debilitating. When we are unable to express or process negative thoughts and emotions, we often suppress them. And chronic suppression leads to anxiety and depression.
Protecting Our Mental Health in The Digital Age
If you are searching the terms “too much news mental health,” that may be a sign you need to pull back. Fortunately, there are ways to protect ourselves from the potential harmful effects of too much news.
- Limit Your News Exposure
Avoid media overstimulation by setting a limit on the amount of time you spend listening to, reading, or watching news. If you are concerned about missing something important, have a friend or family member fill you in later.
- Pay Attention to Sources
Stay away from sensational, disaster, or shock reporting. Is the source you are watching credible? Are they reporting on actual events or “creating” news to boost ratings and keep you hooked?
- Monitor Effects on Your Mood
Evaluate how you feel before, during, and after engaging the news. If you are already feeling down and notice the news exacerbates your mood, it may be a good idea to abstain. Prolonged exposure might also desensitize you or result in compassion fatigue. As TIME reports, social connection is “the bedrock of resilience and the best way to combat apathy.”
- Prioritize Self-Care
Practicing positive stress management techniques is a helpful way to combat anxiety caused by news. Make time to exercise, meditate, journal, read a book, or spend time with loved ones. Additionally, prioritizing self-care builds resilience and strengthens our ability to help others.
Is All News Harmful?
By nature, we are drawn to troubling information because our brains are wired to detect threats, says TIME. But we can still be selective in what we choose to consume. Be deliberate in taking advantage of media that boosts your mood. There are plenty of positive news stories to be enjoyed, those that are inspiring, heartwarming, or helpful. Other uplifting content like funny viral videos or memes are beneficial as well.
Be deliberate in taking advantage of media that boosts your mood.
The Washington Post says that including constructive journalism in our media diets can offer perspective, improving not only our mood in the short term, but shifting our mindset in the long term.
If you or a loved one is suffering from stress, anxiety, or depression caused by overwhelming thoughts and feelings, we at The Meadows Outpatient Center can help. We provide comprehensive, trauma-focused, compassionate treatment that fits your busy schedule. Contact us to learn more so we can assist you on your journey to wellness.