Anxiety is going Viral and Social Media is the contagion
From 5G conspiracy theories to doomsday cults predicting the end of the world, the Coronavirus pandemic has also bought a pandemic of fake news. Some is clearly fake and we can laugh it off (heard the one about drinking cow urine?). Other news is less clear such as medical advice from (unnamed) doctors making false claims like sunlight breaks down the virus. Even the well-intentioned sharing of this fake news increases people’s anxiety and spreads misinformation.
Even when it’s not fake news, the sheer volume of news is overwhelming. There is not much other than Coronavirus in the media now. None of it is positive; from death rates, hospital admissions, unemployment and economic downturns. While it is important to stay well-informed, overdosing on Coronavirus news increases stress. For a many reasons stress and anxiety have risen since the Coronavirus.
Now’s not the time to go off-line
Even with rising stress levels, now is the time to go offline. Digital is the only way to keep in touch with anyone except those living in your household. In a time of social distancing, social media helps combat social isolation. Keeping up to date with what is happening is necessary as Coronavirus measures change. One way is to review your digital diet.
The Coronavirus Digital Diet
Here are 3 ideas to manage your digital diet during the Coronavirus lockdown
1. Make healthy digital choices
Just like healthy food choices, surround yourself with trusted reliable news sources. It might be that you have to pay for it. But if you want to know that someone has checked the facts or solicited alternative views before publishing a story then that is worth it. Social media is the worst place to get your news. Fake news moves six times faster on Twitter than a real story due to both algorithms and humans.
2. Reduce your intake
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in their mental health guidelines has recommended limiting news especially if it is impacting your mental wellbeing A diet of news for hours on end, even in better times increases anxiety. News is only newsworthy if it is negative. Our minds more easily recall more recent events, even if they are not the most frequent statistically. More news will bring up more negative thoughts.
3. Don’t count your screen hours
Just like counting calories, counting the time you spend online is not a good measure of your digital diet. The real question is – is it time well spent? Have you gained pleasure by spending an hour chatting to friends on WhatsApp? Or mindlessly scrolling through cat videos, the Kardashian’s lifestyle and fake news bought you down? So think about how it makes you feel not how long.
Managing your digital consumption is one way to improve your mental wellbeing during. Just as “you are what you eat” with media “you are what you read”. So make healthy choices of news sources, limit your consumption and spend your time online wisely.
Try out these sites:
If you are looking for trusted news sources then try this
Specifically for medical information about the Coronavirus
Jane Piper is an Organisational Psychologist and bestselling author of Focus in the Age of Distraction – a book looking at the impact of digital technology on our wellbeing and ways of working. She is interested in the intersection of humans and technology. She challenges us to look at the impact that technology is having our work and non-work lives, well-being and happiness.
She grew up in New Zealand and has been living abroad for many years, most recently for 15 years in Switzerland. Bringing a unique blend of kiwi creativity and Swiss efficiency, she combines writing, speaking, consulting and coaching on topics of careers, collaboration and culture. After a twenty year corporate career, she now helps people and organisations to work better in a digital age.
Link to my book
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