The Social Media Diet
Do You Need A Media Diet?
News junkies, beware: a new study has found that negative news stories prime women for even more stress.
Researchers wanted to know how the constant barrage of news from cable TV, smartphones and the Internet affects people’s stress levels. To find out, they tracked cortisol levels of 30 men and 30 women while they read news stories, and then while they performed mental challenges in front of judges (a test designed to provoke stress). Participants were also asked to recall as much specific detail from the news stories as possible one day later.
And ladies, the results weren’t so good for us. “Women who read negative news were more reactive when facing a subsequent stressor compared to women who were exposed to the neutral news,” says study co-author Marie-France Marin, a doctoral candidate at University of Montreal. “Also, memory for the negative news was higher in women.” In other words, negative news not only affects women more than men, but it sticks with us, too.
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Why? Marin speculates that the negative news may prime the brain to be more alert and ready to react to potential threats. And—as anyone who’s ever watched a nature show knows—women seem to have evolved to be more attuned to possible threats to themselves and their kids, and thus more likely to be on high alert for any whiff of danger.
But don’t toss your TV just yet. “Being informed is very important in our society,” says Marin. The key? Finding some balance between informed and, well, a basket case. Here’s how:
Cut out the junk.If particular forms of media stress you out, replace them with other information sources that are easier to take, says from Jennifer L. Pozner, founder of Women in the Media and News, and author ofReality Bites Back: The Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV. For example, try switching your mornings of dire CNN headlines to GritTV.
Seek out healthy alternatives.Independent newspapers, magazines, documentaries, and nonprofits are reporting news every day, says Pozner. “Their budgets are lower than the mainstream news outlets, but their level of accuracy is often higher.” Some to try: World Pulse, Women’s E-News, and Yes! Magazine.
Vary your diet.Don't rely on just one newspaper, magazine, or TV broadcast. Getting your news from multiple sources gives you a better chance of receiving balanced information.
Watch out for hidden ingredients.“Pay attention to the structural elements designed to elicit your emotional response, such as narration, soundtrack, and pseudo-scientific language,” says Pozner. These can dramatically affect your responses to news, but being aware of them can help you stay in control.
Video: 5 Steps to a Healthy Media Diet
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