The recent revolution in the way media is produced and consumed has left us more vulnerable than ever to the emotional impact of the news. This is particularly noticeable during terrorist attacks and wartime. Today’s technology brings live coverage of unfolding events straight into our smartphones. No longer just a column in the newspaper or a radio report, we now watch terrorist attacks and wars playing out in front of us, sometimes right in our own hands.
This involvement in the news may increase feelings of tension and irritability, and stress. These feelings often take their toll physically, often resulting in headaches, anxiety, weakening of the immune system, and muscle tension, among other symptoms.
So how much news is too much news?
Many people report feeling addicted to television and social media. They watch live broadcasts for hours on end even when nothing new is being reported. They feel unable to tear themselves away from their TVs, computers, and phones. If they stop watching they worry that they may miss something important. Sometimes they continue watching even when this causes them great discomfort and disrupts their daily work routine and family life.
The answer to the question “Am I watching too much news?” is very simple: If you feel that you cannot tear yourself away from the screen, even when you know that what you’re seeing is upsetting you, this may be an indicator that you’d be better off watching less.
Here are some tips to help you with smart viewing:
- Remember there are rarely quick endings:
When you watch a movie or a TV show you know that if you watch until the end of the program you’ll find out what happens. Reality is quite another story: Even if you watch the news for hours it is unlikely that you will see the conclusion of the story. It is probably better to switch off the news report, even if it feels like you are cutting things off in the middle. It is more than likely that the news event will still be going on the next time that you tune in, and that whatever you missed you can find in a headline a few hours later.
2. Turn off the news some time before going to bed:
Relax with a good book, an entertaining TV show, or talk with someone close to you. Watching the news increases tension, and may interfere with restful sleep.
3. Watch with discretion:
There are usually more than two sides to every story. Often screened news reports present items in a simplified fashion. This holds true especially for reports of particularly horrific or frightening incidents. Reporters, who are often panic-stricken themselves, may prepare news stories that attempt to scare the viewer. Try to watch these reports with a discriminating eye and protect yourself from the panic-stricken atmosphere that they promote.
4. Monitor your child’s exposure to news reports:
News reports often broadcast graphic images that are unsuitable for children. It is better to discuss things with your children in terms they can understand and to listen to children’s questions and fears. While young children may not fully understand news reports, they are highly sensitive to visual images, which may confuse them and cause fear and general distress.
5. The most important rule is the easiest one:
If watching the news calms you down and makes you feel good – keep right on watching. However, if you feel that watching or listening to the news makes you tense and interferes with your daily functioning – turn away from your phone/TV/computer/radio: whatever it is that’s making you crazy.