“…recent changes to the way everyone gets their news—coupled with the style of news that dominates today—may not be good for mental and even physical health.
“The way that news is presented and the way that we access news has changed significantly over the last 15 to 20 years,” says Graham Davey, a professor emeritus of psychology at Sussex University in the UK and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Experimental Psychopathology. “These changes have often been detrimental to general mental health.”
Davey says today’s news is “increasingly visual and shocking,” and points to the inclusion of smartphone videos and audio clips as examples. These bystander-captured media can be so intense that they can cause symptoms of acute stress—like problems sleeping, mood swings or aggressive behavior—or even PTSD, he says.
Some of Davey’s research has shown that negative TV news is a significant mood-changer, and the moods it tends to produce are sadness and anxiety. “Our studies also showed that this change in mood exacerbates the viewer’s own personal worries, even when those worries are not directly relevant to the news stories being broadcast,” he says.
While increased anxiety and stress are reason enough to be wary of overdoing it when it comes to the news, these and other mental health afflictions can also fuel physical ailments. Stress-related hormones, namely cortisol, have been linked to inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease and other serious health concerns.
So if the evidence suggests the news can stress people out, why do they keep going back for more? For one thing, it’s entertaining, Davey says. The human brain is also wired to pay attention to information that scares or unsettles us—a concept known as “negativity bias“.
“In a state of nature, our survival depends on finding rewards and avoiding harm, but avoiding harm takes priority,” says Loretta Breuning, a former professor of management at California State University, East Bay and author of Habits of a Happy Brain.
Breuning explains that the human brain is attracted to troubling information because it’s programmed to detect threats, not to overlook them. “This can make it hard for us to ignore the negatives and seek out the positives around us,” she says. “Our brain is predisposed to go negative, and the news we consume reflects this.”
While your brain may find the latest news enthralling, it’s hard to argue that all of that news is truly illuminating. Breuning says much of the opinion and commentary that passes for news analysis is the equivalent of lunchroom gossip. “There’s this idea of following the news in order to be an informed citizen, but a lot of what you see today is gossip elevated to a sophisticated level,” she says. And if the news you consume is getting you worked up or worried—and some would say this is exactly the goal of much of today’s coverage—it’s probably not doing your health any favors, she says.”— Time Magazine, June 2018
And if consuming so much vitriolic news is bad for us physically and psychologically, what can it be doing to us spiritually in a time when even church “news” often mirrors the very methods, mediums and party propaganda of the monied controversy interests?
Would it not do us much good spiritually to develop a more focused and limited approach to personal daily news consumption?
— Henry David Thoreau on “News” Media As the “Ruling Powers”
God is in control. He decrees or permits human deeds for the ultimate good of all.
“All things work together for the good to those who love God and who are called according to his purpose?”— Rom. 8:28