It’s okay to not read the news right now

A new study tells us why being glued to the news cycle can damage your mental health.
June 12, 2020, 8:03am
news cycle mental health damaging

It might seem like a strange thing to say, considering the circumstances, but it’s okay to switch off and disengage from the news right now. We often tell everyone to do the opposite: to stay aware of what’s going on in the world, but distractions are limited right now, and processing all of this mayhem is harder than ever.

After all, news, particularly tabloids, is almost wholly negative. Anyone who’s sat through one too many drab journalism lectures -- or even just opened a copy of The Sun -- will tell you that the system is built as much on scaremongering and sensationalism than it is informing the public. Attempting to consume it all, the stuff that’s available at your fingertips at any hour of the day, can have a detrimental effect on your mental health.

Of course this increases in the midst of crisis moments, but it filters into the everyday news cycle too. A study conducted by two Dutch researchers, Natascha de Hoog and Peter Verboon, has laid out exactly how consuming news, particularly negative news, can be bad for us. They studied a group of 63 adults, monitoring their news consumption and how they felt over the course of 10 days. Some, mainly those who experience neuroticism (anxiety and stress) reacted more strongly to the negative news -- but extroverts (who the researchers describe as those who are “social, impulsive, optimistic, and easy‐going”) were affected by it too. It just didn’t have a knock-on effect on the joy they felt when consuming positive stories too.

Overall, the study concluded that “daily exposure to everyday news facts makes people feel bad, especially when they consider the news to be personally relevant”. Basically, reading negative news clings to you and can bring your mood down.

It’s important to stay vigilant and informed in times like these, but it’s equally important -- if not more so -- to look after yourself and ensure that you’re keeping your head in the right place. Limit your screen time. Read something that takes you out of the present world for a hot minute and reminds you there’s good in the world. Watch a movie -- just make sure it’s not one about a global pandemic. The world will keep spinning without your beady eye watching what unfolds at every second. Relax, stay safe, and things will be okay.