Thursday, March 30, 2023

Ideal balance

Everyday there is a torrent of news and information circulated and supplied through various media. The cycle is seamless as well as endless. Newspaper, television, radio, mobile phone, computer and laptop ~ the means too are seemingly endless. Information is now the most-valued commodity because the global society thrives and runs on it. The feeding of news and information through various means is endless because the hunger among the people is insatiable. Every day we wake up in anticipation of a new piece of information on something, anything. No day is wasted if we have learned something new before going to sleep. An informed citizenry is one of the hallmarks of a progressive society. Hence, the premium value of news and information. That, anyway, is the somewhat ideal scenario. In reality, we are today confronted with questions like: Is there anything like excessive news consumption? In a modern world where we are bombarded with ‘breaking news’ 24×7 ~ all thanks to round-the-round news reports at the press of a button because of the Internet and social media ~ the word excessive does not sound too excessive. According to reports, there seems to be scientific backing to suggest that too much news consumption may cause physical ill-being. A new study shows that people with an excessive desire to continuously check the news are more likely to suffer from stress, worry and physical illness. The study was published in the journal Health Communication. During the last two years, we have lived through a series of worrying global events, from the COVID-19 pandemic to Russia invading Ukraine, large-scale protests, mass shootings and devastating wildfires. Quite a few local events and incidents, albeit on a smaller scale, have been no less distressing. Rise in price of food items or cooking gas could be just as worrisome as a pandemic or a war. For many people, reading bad news can make them feel temporarily powerless and distressed. For others, being exposed to a 24-hour news cycle of continually evolving events can have serious impacts on mental and physical well-being ~ as these new findings show, those who have a high level of news addiction report “significantly greater physical ill-being”. Witnessing these events unfold in the news can bring about a constant state of high alert in some people, kicking their surveillance motives into overdrive and making the world seem like a dark and dangerous place. To study this phenomenon, known colloquially as news addiction, a group of researchers analysed data from an online survey of 1,100 adults. Respondents were also asked about how often they experienced feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as physical ailments such as fatigue, physical pain, poor concentration and gastrointestinal issues. For these individuals, a vicious cycle can develop in which, rather than tuning out, they become drawn further in, obsessing over the news and checking for updates around the clock to alleviate their emotional distress. But it doesn’t help, and the more they check the news, the more it begins to interfere with other aspects of their lives. Perhaps not surprisingly, people with higher levels of problematic news consumption were significantly more likely to experience mental and physical ill-being than those with lower levels. The findings show that there is a need for focused media literacy campaigns to help people develop a healthier relationship with the news. In addition, the study also calls out the need for a wider discussion about how the news industry may be fuelling the problem. In the case of problematic news consumption, research has shown that individuals may decide to stop, or at least dramatically reduce, their news consumption if they perceive it is having adverse effects on their mental health. Aside from affecting an individual’s access to important information in exchange for good health and safety, it also undermines the existence of an informed citizenry, which has implications for maintaining a healthy democracy. This is why a healthy relationship with news consumption is the ideal balance.