WARNING! MEDIA CAN BE INJURIOUS TO MENTAL HEALTH

Media Can Be Injurious to Mental Health

‘Toddler raped by dad and relative’.

‘2 gunmen strike Srinagar hospital and free LeT terrorist’

‘6 men arrested for abusing poet’

‘Sensex sinks, investors lose Rs. 2.72 L Crores’

‘Boy abducted from school van freed; one Kidnapper killed’

These are some of the news headlines appeared on the front page of a popular English news paper on 2nd February 2018, the  very day I started writing this article. I have no doubt that you all will agree that these are all negative and disturbing news items which will arouse strong negative emotions in the minds of ordinary readers.  Such news may create some kind of distress and anxiety in their minds. Many are in the habit of reading newspapers as the first thing in the morning soon after getting up from bed. Many want to get the newspaper even before their bed coffee. Bed coffee may lift your moods in the morning but reading such news will not. It may have a shattering impact on the mind.

When you allow your mind to receive heavy doses of negative stress generating news daily in the early morning, I wonder what will happen to you gradually over a period of time! Positive psychologists, all over the world, are always advising all to begin every day with positive affirmations and expectations. That will make them more confident and optimistic for the entire day. That can lift their moods and make them happier throughout.

Today, psychologists and researchers are warning that news paper reading has become injurious to your mental health and well-being. There is statutory warning on cigarette packs; ‘Smoking is injurious to health’. Alcohol bottles show the warning; ‘Alcohol consumption is injurious to health’. So, some psychologists argue that a statutory warning’ is to be given at the top of the newspaper as ‘Newspaper reading is injurious to mental health’. The negative impact of the bad news on our mental well-being is so profound.

Why is negative news preferred?

Today, the selection of news in the news papers or in the electronic media is based on the traditional belief that bad news sells faster and better than good news. The reporters and editors are adopting the tested formula of 5Ds for increasing readership or viewership. The news of death, decay, disease, disaster and destruction will arouse some kind of anxiety in readers and arrest their attention. It is a psychological fact that the more anxious you are about something, the more you will want to find more about that. This daily dose of ‘manufactured anxiety’ can make the readers addictive to it, as addictive to nicotine or caffeine.   When the 5Ds will trigger anxiety in the readers they want more and more of these. Thus readership demands anxiety.

Moreover, the ‘survival instinct’ of the readers or viewers will be triggered and the amygdala, the danger detector of the brain, calls the urgent attention to the threat of danger. Thus, they are more anxious about and attentive to negative news instinctively. This is the traditional psychology of news selection in news papers as well as in news channels.

Social impact

As Santhosh Desai, a famous Indian columnist in several prominent publications, pointed out; ‘Journalists have an implicit bias for bad news, since it seems more substantial. But the feeling one gets is that the world is a miserable place. Good news, on the other hand renews our faith and our belief in the goodness of human nature’.

Researchers Jack B Haskins and M. Mark Miller of school of Journalism at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville concludes; ‘News media constantly present a negative distorted picture of the real world’. Also, a large proportion of the public is, in fact, highly interested in reading or viewing bad news of many kinds. Ultimately the readers will develop a strong negative feeling that the world around them is like an ominous hell without any trace of goodness or hope. This will affect how they interact with the world around them.

Psychological impact

Many psychologists are of the opinion that exposure to negative and violent media may have more serious and long lasting detrimental psychological effects than simple feelings of pessimism and distress. Dr. Graham Davey, the famous British psychologist who studied about the psychological effects of media violence says that violent media exposure can contribute to the development of stress, anxiety, depression and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

An American study showed that watching the events of September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the twin towers of World Trade Centre in New York City on TV induced PTSD symptoms among many Americans. They started worrying about future attacks and became too anxious. The severity of the symptoms was noted to be directly correlated with the extent of time they spent watching the disaster videos.

In another study, journalists working in news rooms, who were regularly exposed to violent video footage scored higher on indexes of PTSD, physical distress, anxiety and depression levels. Also, their alcohol consumption was seen higher in frequency and quantity.

Researchers have clearly shown that negative news can reduce helping behavior, decrease tolerance, lower perceptions of a community’s benevolence and cause mental depression. Negative news can also make us feel less emotionally stable and more apprehensive about potential harm to us.

Need of Positive news

A study conducted by Gallup showed that 66% of Americans are tired of the ‘negative news’ featured in the mass media. David Boufford, popularly known as Mr. Positive, is the founder of Positive News Network (PNN) which helps people to be positive, connecting readers to positive news links, events and resources. PNN truly provides an alternative news platform on the web, providing readers with positive news updates, motivational quotes and inspiring stories from all around the globe. The guiding principles of PNN are love, optimism, empathy, brotherhood, honesty, justice, humanity, freedom, family and education.

There is another site called Good News Broadcast which offers a lot of good news from cultural events to inspiring stories of charity and compassion.DailyGood.org is another positive site featuring inspirational events and acts of kindness and compassion

Constructive journalism

Some journalists have boldly come forward to address the detrimental effects of providing the negative news diet, by creating changes in the form of an emerging style of news presentations, called constructive journalism. Sean Dagan Wood started the world’s first positive news paper ‘Positive News’. According to him a more positive form of journalism will not only benefit our wellbeing, but it will also engage us in society’s welfare and will help catalyze potential solution to the problems we face.

Now journalists all over the world are waking up to bring a positive change in journalism, through the positive journalism or solutions journalism. Catherine Gyldensted, a Danish investigative journalist is a popular leader in the emerging constructive journalism movement. She suggests the successful application of positive psychology in news presentations. She teaches the principles of constructive journalism to college students.

Now, there are a good member of media outlets that publishes only happy news and inspiring stories. Good News Network, Happy News, 15 Huff post, Inspiration Line, Optimist World and Wish Only Well  are some of such positive websites. Positive news aims at combating negativity in the news and showing readers that the world is not a horrible place like hell. In this context, we have to appreciate the famous Malayalam News Channel ‘Mathrubhoomi’ for devoting half an hour every day exclusively for telecasting good news (Nalla Vartha).

Providing information about potential solutions to social issues is another positive psychology technique used in constructive journalism. Anyway, a more positive form of journalism is needed to outweigh the violence, destruction and disasters we’re exposed to every day. It will not only improve our well being and mental health, but it will also help to find potential remedies for the problems and issues we are confronting every day.

Insulate your mind from the negativity of media

Today we have a 24 hour news culture and a good majority of news items are extremely negative. So it is not easy to alienate or separate yourself from this. However, you can try to insulate your mind from the negativity of the media by deliberately taking the following precautions.

  1. Avoid reading newspapers as the first thing in the morning.

Many are in the habit of reading newspapers even before bed coffee. Ask yourself why you should fill your mind with all types negative news at the very start the day. If you are unable to resist the compulsive tendency, just allow yourself to glance through the headlines only. Detailed and selective reading can be done later.

  1. Focus, more on positive news

You can try to give more focus on positive news that can uplift your moods. You can also visualize further positive incidents and developments while you read news papers or watch TV news channels.

  1. Understand that the world is not a hell as pictured by the media.

If you can realize the negative bias and compulsions of the journalists for negative news, you can avoid giving much importance to such negative news. Understand that there are more positive things happening around us, even though they are not reported with due diligence and importance or not reported at all. So the whole world is not as terrible a pandemonium as presented by the media.

  1. Look for solutions

When you read about sad incidents or watch violent news stories, you can think of the solutions for such things and what can be done practically for preventing such incidents. This will lead your thoughts to a positive zone.

  1. Limit exposure to negative news as far as possible

Anyway the news media will always continue to focus on negative topics, since it sells best. So what we can do is to be prudent and be concerned about the injurious impact of the news of violence, deaths, disasters, diseases and destruction on our mental health and wellbeing. You can deliberately skip the negative items, or switch from the channels presenting negative stories.

  1. Never propagate negative news

As Tracy Morgan, the famous American actor and comedian aptly said; ‘Bad news travels at the speed of light, good news travels like molasses’.  There is a general tendency to spread negative stories and news which will arouse fear in the minds of people. So we can take a decision not to propagate any negative news even if they are real; instead, we can spread stories of goodness and kindness that will shower positive energy and   optimism in to the minds of people around us.

Summing up     

 As the famous African-American Muslim leader and human rights activist, MalcomX pointed out; ‘The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power, because they control the minds of the masses’. The media have hidden powers to manipulate our minds in all respects. Media can be like a double edged sword. So be very prudent in using the media because they can be injurious to your mental health and well being. Try to insulate your mind from the negativity of the mass media by taking possible precautions. At any cost, don’t allow media to be the master of your mind; instead, let the media be your loyal attendant waiting for your instructions.

About the Author: 

john muzhuthettu

DrJOHN MUZHUTHETTU is a Human Resource Consultant, National Trainer and Counselor. Formerly he was the Deputy Chief Engineer, Kerala State Electricity Board and is still working as an external faculty of HRD Programmes of KSEB. He is also a faculty of Department of Management Studies, Mar Augusthinose College, Ramapuram, under M.G.University, Kerala. He is the PG course co-ordinator of MHRM.

He is columnist in several Magazines, like ‘Business Deepika’, ‘Creative Business’, ‘Donbosco’ etc. His articles have been published in many magazines and journals. His several speeches have been aired by All India Radio. His interviews on various subjects have been  telecasted by Power Vision TV . He is the author of five best-selling books:

  1. ‘Stress-Manassasthra- Aathmeeya Pariharangel’. (Current Books, Thrissur) 4th Edition
  2. Vijayiyude Vyakthithwam (Current Books, Thrissur)
  3. Jeevitham Santhushtamakan, Nithya Yauvanam Nedan.(css,Thiruvalla)2ndEdition
  4. Emotional Intelligence-Jeevithavijayathinu (CSS, Thiruvalla)
  5. Vijayarahsyangal (Current Books, Thrissur)

As a trainer, he has conducted more than thousand  seminars and workshops for teachers, parents, students, executives and others, on several subjects like Stress Management, Time Management, Personality Development, Emotional Intelligence and Spiritual intelligence for Excellence, Communicative Skills, Assertiveness, Motivation, Study Skills, Effective Parenting, Counselling Skills etc. He is an external training faculty of Power Engineers Training and Research Centre of KSEB. He is  an external faculty of IMG Cochin. He is also the Secretary of Upasana Cultural Centre, Thodupuzha. Email:([email protected]

Image Credits: Connie Via Flickr.com under the Creative Commons Legal Code

Previous articleFrederique Constant Presents Its First Novelty Of 2018
Next article5 Simple Home Remedies For Neck Pain Relief

He is a Human Resource Consultant, National Trainer, and Counselor. Formerly he was the Deputy Chief Engineer, Kerala State Electricity Board and is still working as an external faculty of HRD Programmes of KSEB. He is also a faculty of Department of Management Studies, Mar Augusthinose College, Ramapuram, under M.G.University, Kerala. He is the PG course co-ordinator of MHRM.

He is a columnist in several Magazines, like ‘Business Deepika’, ‘Creative Business’, ‘Donbosco’ etc. His articles have been published in many magazines and journals. His several speeches have been aired by All India Radio. His interviews on various subjects have been telecasted by Power Vision TV.

He is the author of five best-selling books

  • ‘Stress-Manassasthra- Aathmeeya Pariharangel’. (Current Books, Thrissur) 4th Edition
  • Vijayiyude Vyakthithwam (Current Books, Thrissur)
  • Jeevitham Santhushtamakan, Nithya Yauvanam Nedan.(CSS, Thiruvalla)2ndEdition
  • Emotional Intelligence-Jeevithavijayathinu (CSS, Thiruvalla)
  • Vijayarahsyangal (Current Books, Thrissur)

As a trainer, he has conducted more than a thousand  seminars and workshops for teachers, parents, students, executives and others, on several subjects like Stress Management, Time Management, Personality Development, Emotional Intelligence and Spiritual intelligence for Excellence, Communicative Skills, Assertiveness, Motivation, Study Skills, Effective Parenting, Counselling Skills etc. He is an external training faculty of Power Engineers Training and Research Centre of KSEB. He is an external faculty of IMG Cochin. He is also the Secretary of Upasana Cultural Centre, Thodupuzha.

Read More from Dr. John Muzhuthettu

13 COMMENTS

  1. Dr, Muzhuthett’s eye opener on media ‘s horrendous impact on mental health is right on time when we have not only the print media but also the tele-serials often degenerating our pleasant and positive spirits and outlook . Some news papers and media producers have started thinking along the right way overlooking the short term gains in going negative . Meanwhile let us take care to discard what’s not good as rightly suggested by Dr.Muzhuthett.

  2. Can we blame the media blind fold? Don’t they have a social responsibility to bring out the darker side of life so that the government can take corrective action and the society can take precautions? It may be only a feeble-hearted few that may be affected by reading or seeing such news. It is their mental health that is to be tested.

  3. Media Psychology focuses on the relationship between human behavior and the media. It studies the interaction between individuals, groups, and technology, and tries to make sense out of this synergy.According to some psychologists, exposure to negative and violent media may have serious and long-lasting psychological effects beyond simple feelings of pessimism or disapproval. The work of British psychologist Dr. Graham Davey, who specializes in the psychological effects of media violence, suggests that violent media exposure can exacerbate or contribute to the development of stress, anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
    Dr.John portrayed these aspects vividly,and stunned us with his cotemporary wisdom in bringing out this article. This century is going to see the full impact of IT revolution and its impact is beyond our imagination.
    I congradualte Dr. John for bringing out this article as an eye opener.

  4. Dr.Johns current article seems to be very purposeful in the contemporary world, where most of our youth are already addicted to social media.Most of their decisions both positive and negative are influenced by the media.But we are more concerned about the negative outcomes of media influence on our youth.We must find a way out from this crisis. This type of articles are a welcome step in that drection.
    According to some psychologists, exposure to negative and violent media may have serious and long-lasting psychological effects beyond simple feelings of pessimism or disapproval. The work of British psychologist Dr. Graham Davey, who specializes in the psychological effects of media violence, suggests that violent media exposure can exacerbate or contribute to the development of stress, anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
    Dr.Johns timing to bring out this article was so precise. I congradualte Dr.Johns initiative in this endevour.

  5. thought provoking article.nowadays media is allpowerful&unquestionabe.it requirescourage to tell truth.keep it up.

  6. You have made good thought about modern media, now a days media is controlling and is having more power.

    The artikel isvery informative

    Dr. Allwin Naduvilekoot

  7. Good writing. the media controls the society and cater the evil thoughts.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here