How the News and Social Media Effects Your Life
I for one can take on all the issues of the world. Whether I’m fretting about a news report or wishing I could help someone displaced I take on what I’m witnessing. Just this week I sent an instant message to my mom and sister advising them to stay committed to their health. I had read a report about colon cancer in millennials and a thousand scenarios ran through my thoughts as if on cue.
A friend told me how she wouldn’t let her 14 year old daughter watch 13 Reasons Why. “I don’t see any reason to see it, ” she said. The Netflix series is about a young girl who commits suicide.
People always say you are what you eat. For a lot of us I’d say we are what we see. What you’re exposed to, especially on a consistent basis, shapes who you are, what you believe, and what you do. To think otherwise is a bit irresponsible.
I’m not saying that we’re completely influenced by what we’re exposed to. Teens who watch 13 Reasons Why aren’t necessarily going to kill themselves. Yet, it is something to be cognizant of. You become what you see. Another friend said that she did allow her kids to watch the show. Her son and daughter watched with her and their dad. And then they had a healthy conversation about suicide afterward.
Acknowledging the “bad” stuff is important. We can’t ignore what’s happening around us. We do have to be mindful not to dwell on it. And it’s not just negative events or movies.
Even positive stories can have an impact of you. I purposefully removed all news sites from my social media feeds. If anyone shared negative stories on a regular basis I unfollowed them. I had to protect my mental space. All the gloom and doom was effecting me. To make up for the fact that bad news travels fast I went on a binge of positive stories. I followed pages for babies and happy marriages. I wanted the good stuff.
Until the good stuff reminded me of what I’m missing out on. I desire to be married and have a family one day. Then the good stuff became the bad stuff and I had a whole different set of thoughts and emotions. Is God punishing me? Am I cursed? What am I doing wrong?
Seeing people achieve their goals and be successful can immensely inspiring. But if you focus on it too much it can be depressing. You can start to beat yourself up for what you haven’t been able to achieve. You can doubt your own abilities and self worth.
There’s a tipping point where being informed and knowledgeable leads to stress and paranoia. There’s also a tipping point where inspiration and happy feelings turn to insecurity. You want to be mindful not only of what you expose yourself to, but also how often and for how long you allow yourself to be exposed.
What you’re exposed to can have not so good effects on you such as these:
It Makes You Worry
Like me, you pull out the laptop and go scouring for everything you can find about colon cancer. Every ache or itch in your body becomes a would be symptom and you’re stressing out over nothing.
Dr. Graham C.L. Davey conducted a study where three groups of people were exposed to three different news items – negative, positive, and emotionally neutral. Those exposed to the negative story were not only sadder than the other two groups they were also more worried.
You don’t consume information or entertainment and go on about your life with no repercussions. Watching negative news can make the issues in your own life become bigger than they really are even after the negative exposure has ended. You can be fixated on certain areas and exasperate your stress levels.
“The day you stop worrying will be the first day of your new life; anxiety takes you in circles, trust in yourself and become free.” – Leon Brown
Worry comes along with a whole other set of issues. WebMD says worry can cause the following symptoms:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry mouth
- Fast heartbeat
- Inability to concentrate
- Muscle aches
- Muscle tension
- Nervous energy
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Trembling and twitching.
So not only do you feel like crap emotionally you can start to feel like crap physically as well.
“A day of worrying is more exhausting that a week of work.” – John Lubbock
Worry and paranoia can also lead you to ignore how your body feels because you don’t want to receive “bad” news of your own. You can also be more inclined to ignore regular checkups with your doctor and dentist.
It Makes You Less Effective
According to an article on HBR negative news impacts your mood (similar to Dr. Davey’s findings) and your mood impacts your performance at work. The article sites numerous studies that show how a positive mood can help employees and businesses perform better. For example, in a particular study optimistic insurance agents at Metropolitan Life outsold their pessimistic counterparts by 37%.
I think we’ve all heard stories or experienced for ourselves bombing on a test or assignment because we were consumed with stress or worry. The news can make you feel sad, depressed, worried or anxious which in turns effects how you perform.
On the flip side, if you’ve been focused on one too many social media superstars you may believe that you’ll never get to where they are. Your attitude could shift from “this is SO possible” to “I’m not as good as them so what’s the point?” Being overly focused on good news can also make you less effective. It can make you give up because you no longer believe in yourself.
It Makes You Negative
One study showed that people without a preexisting mental illness such as anxiety, PSTD, or depression likely won’t develop one as a result of negative news. You may, however, develop a propensity to be more negative. It’s possible to develop a belief that the world is more bad than good and that there’s nothing you can do about. You start to believe that your contributions don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
“Negativity distracts me from my goals. So I simply don’t entertain it. I occasionally laugh at it as well.” – Mama Zara
Being negative makes you:
A Negative Nancy
When you become a negative Nancy you tend to suck the energy out of the room. People want to avoid you because you never have anything good to say. Negative Nancies have a hard time enjoying life and achieving their dreams. It could be the most beautiful day outside and ol’ negative Nancy would say, “Yeah, but it’s probably going to storm tomorrow. We don’t have a lot of nice days here.” Instead of simply enjoying the moment she (or he) has to shift the focus to something unbecoming.
Negative Nancy can’t accomplish her biggest goals because she (he) won’t put forth the effort. “It’s not going to work anyway.” Even if it does work it won’t be worth it. It’ll just be a big headache. “More money more problems.”
You steal the joy and the dream not only from other people but from yourself as well.
You might even become a “hater”. Criticizing everything about anyone who is striving to achieve their goals. You become a naysayer. No matter what it is:
- They didn’t really do that on their own.
- They had help.
- They cheated.
- They got lucky.
A Not Safe-r
You can no longer do anything or go anywhere. Your bucket list becomes your dump it list. You forgo all that you wanted to do and achieve in life because it’s not safe. You no longer experience life. You’re just trying to survive because the world isn’t safe. Life becomes Hunger Games part 4.
In general dwelling on the wrong things for too long can turn you into a pessimist. Not only do you not want to become a pessimist, but you don’t want to hang around them either.
“Thoughts have power, thoughts are energy. And you can make your world or break it by your own thinking.” – Susan Taylor
It’s important to be mindful of what you expose yourself to. What you are expose to become your thoughts. Out of your thoughts comes your whole life. Your mental space determines what you make of your life. That’s why it’s critical to protect it. Only you know what’s too much. You know when information goes from positively informative or inspiring to stressful and discouraging. Don’t allow yourself to go too far. Manage how often you’re exposed to various things. Be strong enough mentally to turn the channel or log off the social media site when you know you’re almost at your limit.
Be especially mindful of what you are exposed to when you have something important to do. Based on the studies cited above it’s probably better to watch negative news after work versus before work. You probably don’t want to binge on medical research when it’s time to schedule your annual exam. If you’re working on a big project it might be best to sign off of social media until it’s complete. That way you’re not scared off or intimidated by what someone else is doing.
If you’re not careful, what you’re exposed to can take the joy out of life. It can cause physical ailments in your body. It can distract and discourage you from your dreams. This could take the form of news, social media, or just conversations with friends and family members.
If you want to live your best life you have to manage what you see and hear on a daily basis.