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7 Negative Effects of the News and Social Media on Our Mental Wellness

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

The 7 Effects:

Information overload: With the 24-hour news cycle, social media platforms that are constantly updated, and the ability to access information from around the world at the touch of a button, it's easy to become overwhelmed. This can lead to information overload, which can cause anxiety, stress, and even depression.


Exposure to negative news: The news media tends to focus on negative events, such as natural disasters, crime, and political turmoil. While it's important to be informed about what's happening in the world, being exposed to a constant stream of negative news can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair.


Cyberbullying: Social media platforms can be a breeding ground for cyberbullying, which can have a devastating impact on mental health. Cyberbullying can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and even suicide in some cases.


Comparison culture: Social media is often used to share carefully curated images of our lives, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem in those who feel they don't measure up to the seemingly perfect lives of others. This can also lead to a culture of comparison, where people are constantly comparing themselves to others, leading to increased stress and anxiety.


Sleep disturbances: The blue light emitted by electronic devices, such as smartphones and laptops, can disrupt our natural sleep cycles, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Lack of sleep can have a profound impact on mental health, leading to mood swings, irritability, and even depression.


Addiction: News and social media can be addictive, leading to a cycle of constantly checking for updates and notifications. This can lead to an unhealthy attachment to our devices, which can have negative consequences for mental health.


Political polarization: Social media platforms have been criticized for their role in exacerbating political polarization. Exposure to extreme political views and a lack of exposure to differing viewpoints can lead to increased stress and anxiety, as well as feelings of anger and frustration.


Drowning in Digital: A Deeper Understanding

In the age of smartphones and widespread internet access, news and social media have become essential parts of our daily lives. They provide us with instant access to information, entertainment, and connections with friends and family. However, as our reliance on these platforms has grown, so too has the negative impact on our mental health. This article delves into the various ways in which news and social media can affect mental well-being, exploring the research and literature available on the topic. It covers a range of relevant keywords, including information overload, exposure to negative news, cyberbullying, comparison culture, sleep disturbances, addiction, and political polarization.



Information Overload

In today's digital age, we are bombarded with information from various sources, leading to a phenomenon known as information overload. This occurs when individuals are exposed to more information than they can process, leading to cognitive strain, stress, and decision fatigue (Eppler & Mengis, 2004). Information overload can negatively impact mental health by increasing anxiety, reducing the quality of decision-making, and causing emotional exhaustion (Misra & Stokols, 2012).

Research has demonstrated that prolonged exposure to information overload can lead to chronic stress, which has been linked to depression and anxiety disorders (Sapolsky, 2004). A study conducted by Kross et al. (2013) found that excessive Facebook use led to increased feelings of loneliness and lower overall life satisfaction. This finding suggests that information overload in the context of social media may exacerbate feelings of social isolation.


Exposure to Negative News

Exposure to negative news can have significant psychological effects, as people tend to focus on negative information more than positive information (Rozin & Royzman, 2001). This "negativity bias" can lead to increased anxiety and stress, particularly when consuming news about crises, disasters, or violence.

A study conducted by Johnston & Davey (1997) showed that exposure to negative news increased individuals' anxiety and sadness levels. Furthermore, Holman et al. (2014) found that repeated exposure to news about a traumatic event, such as a mass shooting, increased the risk of developing acute stress symptoms. This research highlights the potential harm of excessive exposure to negative news on mental health.


Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying, or the use of technology to harass, threaten, or intimidate others, is a growing issue, particularly among adolescents. It has been linked to various mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010).

A meta-analysis by Kowalski et al. (2014) found that cyberbullying victims were at higher risk of experiencing depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Cyberbullying perpetrators also showed increased risk for similar mental health issues, demonstrating that both victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying are at risk for negative psychological outcomes.



Comparison Culture

Social media platforms often encourage individuals to compare themselves to others, leading to a "comparison culture." This can result in feelings of inadequacy, envy, and lowered self-esteem (Fardouly et al., 2015). Studies have shown that frequent social comparison on social media can contribute to depressive symptoms and reduced well-being (Vogel et al., 2014).

In a study conducted by Steers et al. (2014), individuals who used Facebook more frequently reported lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression. The authors suggested that this relationship could be attributed to social comparison and the tendency to perceive others' lives as better than one's own.


Sleep Disturbances

Excessive use of news and social media, particularly before bedtime, can contribute to sleep disturbances. The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep (Chang et al., 2015). Additionally, engaging with emotionally stimulating content can make it difficult to unwind and relax before sleep (Cain & Gradisar, 2010).

A study by Levenson et al. (2016) found that increased social media use was associated with sleep disturbances, including difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early. Sleep disturbances have been linked to a range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and impaired cognitive functioning (Baglioni et al., 2011).



Addiction

Excessive use of news and social media can lead to addictive behavior, as these platforms are designed to keep users engaged through rewarding feedback mechanisms, such as likes and comments (Alter, 2017). Research has demonstrated that individuals who display problematic social media use are at increased risk of depression, anxiety, and reduced well-being (Andreassen et al., 2016).

A study conducted by Lin et al. (2016) showed that higher Facebook addiction scores were associated with increased stress, anxiety, and depression levels. This finding underscores the importance of understanding and addressing the potential addictive nature of news and social media use.


Political Polarization

Political polarization has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, fueled in part by the echo chambers created by social media algorithms (Bail et al., 2018). Exposure to polarizing content can lead to increased stress and negative emotions (Garrett & Bankert, 2018).

Research conducted by Boxell et al. (2017) showed that social media use was associated with increased political polarization. This polarization can create hostile online environments, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and a reduced sense of social belonging (Van Aelst et al., 2017).



Conclusion

The negative effects of news and social media on mental health are multi-faceted and far-reaching. Information overload, exposure to negative news, cyberbullying, comparison culture, sleep disturbances, addiction, and political polarization can all contribute to increased stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. As society continues to grapple with the pervasive influence of these digital platforms, it is crucial for individuals, mental health professionals, and policymakers to understand

 

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