The need for a Healthy and Balanced Diet of Information.
It is believed that an individual’s personality is an amalgamation of the five closest people they associate with. Similarly, our thoughts too are influenced by the information we soak in from the world around us. Surrounded by an abundance of negatives, conditions us to assume the worst in any scenario. This creates a pessimistic and worrisome mindset- an epidemic that is sweeping the entire globe.
Earlier, when information wasn’t so readily available, people would seek out a healthier balance, taking in the negatives as well as the positives in stride. Today, however, escaping the media is a task in and of itself. Majority of the news platforms try to outdo each other by flooding our senses with sensationalised news, often disheartening in nature; so as to grip the viewer’s interest.
A study involving more than 1,000 people across 17 countries spanning every continent stated that on average, people pay more attention to negative news than to positive news. Scientists believe that people respond more actively to negative news, maybe due to evolutionary survival instincts. We are more likely to be taken by negative news in our need to be prepared for an impending challenge.
Additionally, research shows that cultivating a sense of fear within the individual forces the viewer to read
through or view an entire story to draw out hope and alleviate trepidations. This ensures that the platform’s
content receives thorough and sustained visits as people combat their fears.
“Unfortunately, a lot of the news we consume today isn’t so much reporting as it is a way of keeping people addicted to the news cycle,” says licensed psychologist, Logan Jones, PsyD.
Such behaviour has thus, ensnared the viewer, in a negative prison of their own making, allowing the media to capitalise on their need to be informed and reassured.
Several studies have been conducted to test the impact that negative news has on viewers. There is significant data available to prove that such news facilitates sad and anxious behaviours. On the other hand, it also enhances the individual’s tendency to be harrowed by worrying thoughts.
The coronavirus pandemic is an apt illustrator of the toll our mental health endures as a result of the constant crucifixion through negative news. News, especially in the early months of 2020 was dominated by the growing fears and spread of the pandemic. Each and every news outlet continuously reported the dangers and suffering the virus had caused. The mental health of the globe as a whole was observed to be at an all-time low. Stuck indoors with quarantine restrictions, people were forced to consume the news- which aided in a feeling of mass hopelessness.
It was only when people made a conscious effort to reduce intake of such news so as to preserve their mental equilibrium, that viewership declined exponentially. This led news outlets to diversify their content, so as to attract audiences back.
We must remember that Mental Health is fragile and can turn in an instant. A study conducted by the Huffington Post showed that if people watched even 3-4 minutes of negative news, 27% of participants were more likely to be depressed for the next 6-8 hours of their day.
However, a greater issue at hand is that news nowadays isn’t limited to newspapers or media outlets. In the age of social media and mobile applications, news surrounds us 24/7- be it a Whatsapp forward, a Facebook post or even an hourly app notification. Furthermore, the icing on this gloomy cake is contributed by the knowledge that in such a digital age, it is the young children that suffer the ramifications of this overpowering negativity. The growing generations are inundated by this skewed reality. We must rectify this concern by making available a healthy dose of positivity.
A constant barrage of unhealthy negative news creates an outlook of a crime and greed ridden world, a view not
fully aligned with reality.
What we need to counter this is ‘serious optimism’.
You can always watch cheerful viral videos of otters sleeping or a baby laughing, however, what you need for redefining your worldview is more along the lines of positive journalism. Inspiring stories of positivity and development play a pivotal role in alleviating anxiety and depression. It can even have an impact on your outward physical help to a great extent.
Researchers at Harvard University School of Public Health found that optimism cuts the chances of developing
heart disease and the rate of lung-decline as we age. They followed 1,300 men in their early 60’s for ten years.
The study found that lung function declined significantly faster in those with a pessimistic persona.
It is evident that people are eager to see and hear good news because it makes them feel better. It’s not only an issue of staying informed or up to date with the latest events. On the contrary, it’s a matter of staying healthy both mentally and physically.
If you want to build a positive mindset, you can’t do it by only consuming negative news all the time. We must, to a great degree, consciously stick to the more optimistic topics, allowing ourselves to enjoy quality content that doesn’t make us worried, disturbed, or frightened.
As the news industry moves towards monetarily inclined goals, a balanced conception of news becomes a thing of
the past. We cannot expect ourselves to be served healthy unbiased news; it is our responsibility to search for
What we need to counter this is ‘serious optimism’.
What we get from the news today is a one-sided look. What we need to do is to take in the achievements along with the failings. It is obvious that simply shutting out all news altogether would not, necessarily rid us of our existent pessimism and make us happy. What we require is a healthy- balanced- diet of information.
We must observe that both varieties of news- positive and negative should not compete with each other. Rather they should co-exist; providing audiences with a holistic account and an objective dose of reality.
1. American Psychological Association- https://www.apa.org/news/apa/2020/03/covid-19-research-findings
2. Harvard University School of Public Health- https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/new-evidence-that-optimists-live-longer/
3. Psychology Today- https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-we-worry/201206/the-psychological-effects-tv-news
4. TIME- https://time.com/5125894/is-reading-news-bad-for-you/
5. Szabo, A., Hopkinson, K.L. Negative psychological effects of watching the news in the television: Relaxation or another intervention may be needed to buffer them!. Int. J. Behav. Med. 14, 57–62 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03004169