How to Avoid Blind Panic and GAD with Responsible Consumption of News media
If you’re living between soul-crushing panic and blatant ignorance, then you should consider taking Intermittent News Fast. Timing the news might curb your anxieties and help with the feeling of impending doom.
INF is a responsible way to consume news. Headlines have grown extremely harmful over the past decades. If you add the International crisis to the mix, you’ve got yourself a mental-problem-martini.
Your brain is not made to endlessly run on a hamster wheel of negativity.
People react faster to negative headlines, as recent studies have confirmed. Media powerhouses picked up on this conclusion decades ago. Negativity sells, as we can see from mass-reported atrocities.
If I tell you that this is the best time to be alive, you’d probably think I’m crazy. But somehow we live in the best of times, by all measurable standards.
Then, why do you always feel like the world is one week away from the apocalypse?
The news is a commercial product. While most journalists pride themselves with the badge of being the fourth branch of the government, the reality is far off. The role of media is crucial for any democracy. But the editors and journalists are just ordinary people trying to sell their time for money. Every newspaper is guilty of publishing sensational articles.
“Sensationalism is a type of editorial tactic in mass media. Events and topics in news stories are selected and worded to excite the greatest number of readers and viewers.”
Sensationalism is equivalent to clickbait headlines when translated to internet terms. Clickbait is fine on your blog post, and it might drive more traffic, but it won’t make you feel better when reading the news.
The practice gets problematic with over-reporting global accounts. We’re constantly flooded by obscene quantities of sensational information.
You might turn to news more often in times of crisis, looking for consolation and light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, scrolling through the latest headlines won’t make you feel better if you’re stuck in self-isolation.
Headline stress disorder
Therapist Steven Stosny coined the term headline stress disorder. He’s working with clients who frequently suffer from grueling news cycles.
“Many feel personally devalued, rejected, unseen, unheard, and unsafe. They report a sense of foreboding and mistrust about the future,” Stosny writes.
Look at the questions below. How many times have you asked yourself any of the following during the COVID-19 crisis?
Is this the end of the world? Will I lose everything? What if life never goes back to normal? Will summer get canceled? What about jobs? Will the small and medium business survive? How are we ever going to weather this storm? Is this the end of the world?
The above questions are essential, and they should be answered. But stressing over such stuff without affirmative action won’t make you feel better. You might develop a headline stress disorder. The condition might fuel your anxiety if you’re stuck in a media loop during the quarantine.
Intermitted News Fast
Mass-media Fast is not a new term. Many authors and media personalities have renewed and developed the idea over the decades. The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay Johnson tackles this issue at length.
Humanity is fed such an enormous amount of data every day. We live in “information overload communities.” Our brains are force-fed geese on a foie gras farms. You can pick up your phone at any time and follow a real-time catastrophe somewhere in the world.
INF advocates for the conscious consumption of news. Take it in adequate dosage — only when prescribed. Drinking water is essential, but you’re going to die if you drink a glass every ten minutes. Approach news in the same way.
Human brains are not made to deal with constant cycles of negativity. Stress and anxiety are on the rise. Such mental disturbance have already tainted new generations, and it might be an underlying epidemic of the 21st century.
How to consciously consume media?
The answer is more of an art than science. Many factors are at play regarding the nature of your work, demographics, and your overall health condition.
By the rule of thumb, consuming news once a day, preferably in the evening, might work best. We process stress differently, depending on the time of the day. Your body might react less strongly to adverse headlines after 6pm. The news won’t flare you up into a tornado of anxiety this way. Set aside half an hour and scroll through your media portals or watch the evening news.
Forget about mass-media for the rest of the day. And don’t worry about missing out on something important. Breaking news will always find you.
News media is not in the business of making their consumers happy. And grueling headlines are readily available with an internet connection, often generating every other minute. Wide-spread connectivity makes for the best and the worst of media. You can easily find yourself scrolling through the global and local pits of despair.
The idea behind the INF is to limit your consumption to once a day for half an hour. You can mitigate the adverse effects by timing the news later in the day.