The Media, Social Media, and Depression

You wake up and turn on the TV, 3 murders, 1 stabbing, corruption by local politicians, earth quake and a tornado; and now news about the Ebola scare and its not even 7am. You just spent 20 minutes making coffee with the hopeful anticipation of starting your day and yet you are consumed with negativity. Maybe you don’t notice it right away, but later in the day, you look at CNN online, and you hear reports of a shooting at university, an explosion at Rail Company, and you wonder why you don’t feel like leaving the house. You wonder why your life is filled with a sense of worry and dread. The problem is that negativity is everywhere, and apparently negativity SELLS!

Perhaps more problematic is that jumping on the news media bandwagon are regular human beings who fill up their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds with nothing but the bad news. “Woe is me,” is everywhere and there are fewer people and large corporations working from a state of gratitude, and happiness and thankfulness than there are those working from a state of negativity.

In recent years, there has been a massive amount of research linked to the media exposure (both news and social media) and depression in adolescents. But as adults, we are fooling ourselves if we think we can remain exposed to constant negativity, whining and disastrous reports without it taking a toll on our wellbeing. We may turn on the news waiting for the weather to come on, while cooking dinner thinking we are only half-paying attention to the reports of gloom and doom, but experts say that the reports still make their way into our brain space, and impact our emotions. For many people the news brings on a constant state of worry and fret, where we can actually create an environment of depression for ourselves.

A report from Psychology Today, a leading research and news outlet in the psychiatric realm reports that:

“The development of depression in adolescence and adult hood may be understood as a biopsychosocial, multifactorial process influenced by risk and protective factors including temperament, genetic heritability, parenting style, cognitive vulnerability, stressors (e.g., trauma exposure or poverty) daily exposure to news and social media and interpersonal relationships both virtual and otherwise,” the authors write.

Media exposure is another plausible influence, since teens and adults are exposed to an average of eight and one-half hours of electronic media per day which includes smart phone devices, tablets, computers and television.”

In other words if half of your waking hours are spent subconsciously listening to and reading about all the things wrong with the world, there is a pretty substantial chance that it is going to have an effect on your overall wellbeing.

So what is a person to do? Realistically, we all know that the media is slated to report more negativity than positivity. Drama sells. We have all somehow fallen in love with the trials and tribulations of others. Maybe listening to how bad things could be for us, or how bad things are in the world makes our dealing with our every day stressors easier?

The problem is that as a society we have to take back control. We have become complacent and instead of taking a proactive stance and choosing what we put in our brains, we have accepted the gloom and doom as part of life. But it doesn’t have to be. Disconnecting, turning off the TV, and paying attention to the things that we fill our minds with is the first step in changing our world and the way we feel. If more people decided to do this, it would send a loud message to TV and social media influencers. Interestingly, some of the most popular Facebook pages and websites are those promoting the good things in life, self-help and messages of a positive nature. This seems to indicate that at an innate level, we REALLY want to feel good, hear good news, and fill our minds with positive things. Gaining control of what we pay attention to is the first step.

The recent Ebola scare in the United States is just one recently feasible example of the kind of hysteria and bad news reporting that people tend to cling to with jaw dropping silence. The New York Times reported last week that more than 3/4ths of the US population is searching online for news updates on Ebola, even though only a handful of people have been infected. News reports are full of gloom and doom reporting on the disease and instilling immense fear in people as well as fostering quite a bit of resentment towards others. Last week, Ebola was a trending topic on the news and social media recording billions upon billions of hits.

At the end of the day, we have to pay attention to how we are feeling, and how the environment around us makes us feel. If we are feeling down and out rather than sit like a zombie with the TV blaring bad news, we need to choose to take a walk. Rather than mindlessly scroll through bad news on our phones, we need to find things that make us feel good. We need to realize that we CAN and DO have the ability to control and filter the amount of negativity that we are presented with on a daily basis. We control the off switches.

This by no means, indicates that we should bury our heads in the sand and walk around carelessly unaware of world news and what is going on. However, we do have to take back control of our lives and try to limit the amount of negativity and bad news that we are being influence by. And there is no question whatsoever, that we are being influenced by the news and media around us. Is that influence a bonus to your life? Or is it causing depression, mood disorders, and anxiety? If you are one of the 3/4ths of the population who suffer from any of those three disorders, you may want to dig deep and ask yourself if your exposure to the news, social media, and the mongering of negativity in your daily life by outside sources is worth it.



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