TORONTO — Doomscrolling COVID-19 news, even for a few minutes, can have negative emotional consequences, but exposure to pandemic-related acts of kindness doesn’t, according to a pair of new studies.
Reading, published Tuesday in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, examined how people react after a brief exposure to COVID-19 news via Twitter or YouTube reaction videos.
The authors wrote, “People often seek out information as a means of coping with challenging situations. Attaching to negative information can be adaptive because it alerts people to risks in their environment, allowing them to do similar things in the future.” prepared for the dangers of.” “But is this behavior adaptive during a pandemic when bad news is ubiquitous?”
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Compared to a group that was not exposed to social media, consuming only two to four minutes of COVID-19 news resulted in an immediate and significant reduction in mental well-being and optimism.
“Our findings suggest the importance of being mindful of one’s own news consumption, particularly on social media,” the authors wrote. “People seek out social media for many reasons other than news consumption and may not realize that minimal exposure to negative news on these platforms can have such negative consequences.”
However, exposure to acts of kindness related to the pandemic did not have the same negative effects, suggesting that not all social media exposure is detrimental to well-being.
Doomscrolling — when one gets caught up in a cycle of negative news on social media — can heighten a person’s worries and undermine their mental well-being, according to the authors. But staying up to date on rapidly evolving public health measures is also essential to keeping up with COVID-19 news.
Limiting one’s news consumption can be very difficult because people need access to the information, and the authors have made several suggestions to counteract the negative consequences of doomscrolling.
“Government agencies can take into account that the human need for information in times of stress comes with negative consequences, and they can present important information and guidelines in a concise and digestible manner,” the authors wrote. “Severely brief updates can reduce the psychological costs that are associated with heavy consumption and prevent people from searching for information elsewhere.”
On a personal level, social media users may attempt to deliberately balance negative emotions by receiving positive information. In addition, social media platforms can also play a role in helping users find more positive stories, said the study.
“The algorithms that select the messages we encounter on social media can be modified to take into account legitimacy and prioritizing risk to user well-being rather than endless engagement.”
The authors suggest that social influencers may also be able to use their platform for the betterment of their followers by creating positive content for consumption.
Finally, users can take matters into their own hands and actively engage in positive activity, which includes helping others and doing what is necessary to meet their mental health needs.
More people in this country than ever have reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, including young people, with symptoms of anxiety and depression doubling.
The results of the study involving Twitter included 299 participants who completed a survey. The YouTube study included 602 participants.