Switch on your TV, open up a web browser, listen to the radio in the car on the way to work… we dare you to try going longer than one hour without hearing negative news. Without context, it can make us feel as though the world is constantly falling apart all around us – it’s depressing, emotional and draining. We have the advances in technology and the 24/7 news cycle to largely thank for the situation that faces us.
According to some psychologists, this constant exposure to negativity…
Has the potential to have serious and long-lasting psychological impacts that go beyond pessimism or disapproval. British psychologist, Dr. Graham Davey, specialises in the psychological impact of media violence and says that this kind of constant exposure to negative news can exacerbate and contribute to the development of what most of us will all experience at some point in life – stress, anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). More alarmingly, Davey says this can also impact how we interpret and view the world around us.
Of course, we need to know what’s happening in the world around us…
But do we need to baste ourselves in the constant negative news cycle? We’re going let you in on a secret: humans love grisly news and so does the media – it generates more clicks for news sites, attracts more viewers to TV screens and has people glued to the radio for the latest updates. Don’t believe us? When Russian new site, City Report, decided to report only good news to its readers for an entire day, something remarkable happened: it lost two-thirds of its normal readership in just one day.
Now, more so than ever, it’s important that we exhibit self-awareness around the content we’re drawn to
Hundreds of scientific studies confirm our negativity bias – we bet you remember your bad days like only yesterday while the good days fade from your memory quickly. That’s negativity bias at play. Being aware of and understanding this and then being more selective with what you’re taking in and exposing yourself to media/social media-wise is vitally important. Especially in a world where the rise of social media has served to further exacerbate the problem.
Don’t believe us? The Digital Me survey, which was released by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) in November last year, found that Australians are now heavily reliant on social media. More than 1,000 adults were surveyed and the high level findings are staggering:
- Nine out of ten adults use some form of social media.
- Both teens and adults use social media throughout the day, including meal times and in the company of others. 60.3 per cent of teens and 41.8 per cent of adults use it just before bed.
- 63 per cent of teens feel pressure to look good. 59 per cent feel validated when others ‘like’ their posts, and 35 per cent posted content they’ve regretted.
As journalists, editors, social media experts and even PR representatives, we each have an incredibly important responsibility in 2018 and beyond.
We must look beyond what generates the most hits, viewers, listeners or Likes. It’s time to ensure that a wider variety of voices are heard and given the opportunity to contribute – and without people having to take to social media to have their voice heard.
While the media has a responsibility to ensure it is reporting in a balanced manner (both positive and negative news stories), we also need to realise that our behaviour can help to shape the future. Reality is, if we don’t continue consuming negative news or the stories we can’t relate to, the media will stop publishing them because they have a business to maintain.
Moving forward, we challenge you to be more aware of what you’re taking in. To be present in that moment and recognise the feelings that certain content triggers for you.
Contrary to what we’ve convinced ourselves to believe, the power has always been and still is in our hands.
If certain stories make you feel sad, switch off. When people you’re following on social media make you feel inadequate, stop following them. Should certain opinion columns anger or frustrate you, stop reading them. And if you’re not gaining anything from what you’re consuming, look for alternative options.
As consumers, the media exists for and because of us and by coming together as one, we can drive change.
Sarah Cannata is the editor of This Woman Can.