We’re stressed, depressed, overweight, and as years roll by, it seems as if just existing in the modern world is only adding to our worries. We’re living longer for sure but at what cost? For most of human history, we’ve lived in a world that’s radically different from ours. We ate fresh food, breathed air free of contaminants, and didn’t have jobs that needed us to sit at one place for 8 to 10 hours a day. We didn’t have many of the luxuries we have now, but we also didn’t get bombarded with information that does very little to enrich our lives. Modern media is making us sick, and nobody seems to notice. Like a drug that enters your life like a one-time harmless fling but ends up as a nasty addiction, modern sensationalist media keeps us hooked to our phones and our TV screens at the cost of sacrificing our mental health. And the worst part is that in the case of excessive media consumption, there is no one we can rely on for recovery but ourselves. If you spend hours scrolling through your social media feeds to consume the next dose of political, environmental, or technology news, or even if you keep the TV on with a news channel playing in the background, then you might want to step back and reassess what you’re doing.
You may not realize it, but hearing stories of conflicts, viruses, mass shootings, natural disasters, and other upsetting events affects your psyche. Even online celebrity gossip, despite seeming harmless, is created to generate more ad revenue often at the cost of the personal lives of the celebrities. That piece of gossip might make you feel good for a while but quite possibly, for the wrong reason. Today, we live in a time when media is not used to inform and educate but to spread carefully manufactured agendas. It has the power to make the good sound evil, the right seem wrong, and even create or topple governments. With every breaking story or news alert, it feels as if our world is receding further and further into crisis, and there is no hope for redemption. The job of media outlets is no longer to bring us news and advocate for a positive social change.
Its purpose is to keep feeding our brains an endless cycle of consumerism disguised as information. They know that humans are creatures driven by emotions, so to keep us hooked, we are fed stories of violence, tragedies, scandals, and sex, while conveniently ignoring the greater flaws of our systems and society at large. We are given just enough information to form opinions but never question the reason behind it. What was once considered one of the pillars of democracy has been reduced to a mere tool, dancing to the tune of their political masters.
We all have our favorite news channels, and we like to think they’re telling us the truth, but it could very well be that we’re choosing ignorance over knowledge by feeding our preconceived notions. Mark Twain once said, “If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're misinformed.” and that statement is now true more than ever. The world has always been a place of conflict, but experiencing stressful events happening thousands of miles away is a rather modern phenomenon. On any given day, it feels like everything is crumbling right in front of our eyes. So, how do you adapt to the greater exposure to information and all the negative emotions that it brings? Do you have to sacrifice your mental health just to stay in touch with what’s happening around you? To answer those questions, we must first understand what goes on inside our minds when processing stress-related subjects. From an evolutionary perspective, the brain has been hardwired to enter into a fight, flight, or freeze mode when it perceives danger or trauma before settling back to its restful state.
Psychotherapists focusing on trauma recovery say that constant exposure to trauma can break our ability to cope in a healthy fashion and hinder the brain’s ability to return to its restful state. Usually, when under stress, our psychology is triggered, and the brain releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol as a response to the perceived threat. And when the process goes on, again and again, our adrenal glands get fatigued and cause a myriad of issues like anxiety, depression, insomnia, among others. Prolonged exposure to stress and trauma can also lead to a symptom known as disaster fatigue, where we lose our sense of empathy and become numb to situations of crisis. The only way to deal with the problem is to tune out whenever possible to prevent overexposing yourself to the news. And since everyone has a different limit, it's essential that you find yours. Set a time limit for watching the news and using social media platforms.
Turn off the push notifications on your phone and allow your nervous system to recover from the stress response. Instead, go out, breathe in the fresh air, meditate, take a walk, or talk to a friend. It is now more critical than ever to advocate for a free press and willingly choose facts over sensationalism. If you have to consume news, research extensively to find out which media outlets are independent and buy subscriptions to their website, paper, or magazines. It is only by being conscious of what we feed our mind and to what extent that we can tame this ever-evolving danger known as the media.