Increased Anxiety from News and Ideas to Control It
Growing up, I left the room when my parents turned on the nightly news. I had no interest. Besides, it was all bad news, or so it seemed: wars, fires, shootings, murders, robberies, injustices, bickering politicians, and so on. No, thank you, I had anxiety around the news.
As I transitioned into adulthood in the late '70s and early '80s, I kept myself somewhat informed, picking and choosing snippets, at best, minimizing my exposure to bad news, especially. But with the birth of 24/7 news channels, the World Wide Web, and especially the advent of social media in the early 2000s, exposure to bad news now seems unavoidable.
Short of sticking my head in the sand, is it even possible to avoid bad news? I limit how much network news I consume, sticking to some local content and a limited amount of global news. My husband enjoys CNN and BNN. He keeps it on as background noise. I try to avoid both for the most part and am thankful he has a "man cave" in which to partake of his need to consume all things business and global news alongside sports news.
I suppose I could leave social media, although I only frequent two platforms with regularity; Instagram and Twitter.
Instagram is primarily for close family and friends and to share my writing about mental health.
My go-to social media is Twitter, which I review twice a day, on average. Its short-form text-based content appeals to my preference for consuming information in bite-sized snippets.
My profile on Twitter is public. I post links there to my blog articles and follow several carefully selected handles: good news accounts, comedy, museums, history, authors, animals, TV shows and personalities, etc. I utilize Twitter's blocking and filtering features as well. Still, troubling news hits my feed that is often confusing, polarizing, scary news that generates all manner of self-talk. It brings about my news anxiety. I wonder:
"Is this fact-checked or fake news?"
"Can I trust this news?"
"What does this mean?"
All of this makes me feel like the metaphoric sky is falling, and there's not one thing I can do about it. Though I do my best to scroll past bad news quickly, my brain picks it up, resulting in a general unease, a trigger, as it were, for my anxiety.
I enjoy scrolling through my Twitter feed but avoiding bad news is becoming exceedingly difficult.
Tips for Consuming News in Moderation to Lower Anxiety
Moderating the news I consume on TV is as simple as turning the channel, assuming I haven't been swept up by some dirty deed or disaster that has me glued to the tube, as we used to say back in the day. The same holds true for content on the Internet. I don't typically frequent news sites, but if I happen upon something I don't like, I simply close the browser window.
Social media is a little trickier. First, the post verbiage entices me. Then, I click the post to read more, whether to see more of the post that wasn't visible, to access a link to an article, or to view an image or video. Then, I start scrolling through the comments, some of which agree with my point of view. Others are negative or incredibly toxic. All the while, my brain is absorbing, always absorbing.
As it seems that social media, Twitter specifically, is, for me, the biggest contributor to my anxiety due to bad news, I have three options to consider.
- I could leave Twitter altogether, although I would no longer have access to the often fascinating, humorous, adorable, and engaging content I enjoy consuming through this platform.
- I could stop looking at Twitter daily. But could I honestly do this? It's sad to say that it has become habitual.
- I could adopt a more rigorous practice of reviewing who I follow and the content they post and do a better job at updating the filters I have in place. If I have a filter and something slips by, look into why it landed in my feed and make adjustments.
For now, I will go with option three and do a better job of curating my content. At the same time, I'll try to reduce the number of times I look at Twitter.
Some might say that my approach is naive. Just because I ignore the news doesn't mean it isn't happening. But, given we live in the age of instant, constant information overload, I feel it's important to moderate what we consume. It's not only important, but it's also essential to both our individual and collective wellbeing.
Scott, L. (2022, November 9). Increased Anxiety from News and Ideas to Control It, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 31 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2022/11/increased-anxiety-from-news-and-ideas-to-control-it
Author: Liana M. Scott