Maggie Reynolds, LCPC

Mainstream media, right-wing media, political art, radio, social media…there is a lot of media available in our modern lives. With smartphones always in hand, our news diets can be to our brains what walking around with endlessly full plates of food hung from our necks would be to our stomachs: unhealthy and unproductive. It can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health, starting with your posture. Here are some of the costs of unhealthy news consumption and some things to do to regain a sense of moderation and purpose in being informed of current events.

  • Stress: Let’s face it, there are distressing things happening in the world. The news can leave us in despair and fear, ruminating about the things we read, see, and hear. Sometimes in our anxiety, we seek more and more information about something that disturbs us in an effort to understand the incomprehensible or protect or defend ourselves from attack by others. We seek to create a knowledge and truth shield for ourselves. This can be unhealthy if we become obsessive and engage in information hoarding, rather than acquiring useful and helpful knowledge.
  • Outrage: Sometimes our stress and fear begin to crystallize as outrage toward others. We blame. We generalize. We scapegoat. Sometimes we even speak and act in ways that don’t align with our logical selves and values. We react emotionally rather than respond with clarity.
  • Loss of Time: What are your goals? Are you trying to exercise more? Finish a degree? Write a book? Learn a language? More phones and computers are now allowing you to see how you spend your screen time. How are you budgeting your time and is your news acquisition worth the time you’re spending?
  • Loss of Presence: We all know it’s rude to be staring at your screen when you are trying to spend quality time with someone. Even when you aren’t on your device, are news stories impacting your ability to focus on the person you are with or contributing to a worsened mood?
  • Loss of Perspective: Is your news consumption leading you to hopelessness, apathy, smugness, or isolation? Would your news consumption best be described as curiosity seeking awareness or like an addiction seeking certainty? If so, you may need to reconsider your habit and reach out to a therapist who can help you understand your behaviors and how to find balance.

If you have some concerns that your news-seeking habits have become unhealthy for you or others, here are some things to try:

  • Limit the amount of time you spend consuming news. Decide on a reasonable amount of time to get your daily fix of news. Make this part of your daily routine, maybe with breakfast or during your commute. It may be best to abstain from news-consumption in the evenings, especially if it might impact your sleep.
  • Choose your sources wisely. Decide which platforms and news organizations you trust to give you accurate information and balance. Try subscribing to a daily news brief that gives you good overall coverage or alerts about particular subjects.
  • Engage with others to get new perspectives and strengthen your connections to your own life.
  • Become aware of your intentions in seeking out news and your emotions in learning of current events. Find healthy ways to respond to these emotions by talking to a friend, partner or therapist.
  • Take action in your life and in your community. Experiencing that you can make a difference can help you avoid hopelessness and apathy.

If you or someone you know might be struggling with unhealthy habits of news consumption or with other issues like depression or anxiety that can be triggered by following the news, please consider contacting one of our trained professional therapists at Symmetry Counseling in Chicago. Our number is 312-578-9990.