While mass media is intended to provide viewers with information about the ever-changing world, viewers often become discouraged by all the negativity in it. Fortunately, just a few changes to your everyday life, can alter your worldview toward the media and ensure your mental health.

Dr. Lance Porter, Director of the Social Media and Analysis and Creation Lab attributes the frequent appearance of upsetting news to the algorithms of social media apps.

His advice: turn your notifications off.

“If you’re checking news feeds, the news that's most provocative is what ultimately rises to the top,” Porter said. “If you are part of a major social media platform, you are getting multiple points of view, but you are also most likely getting the most provocative or outlandish stories.”

Dr. Porter suggested several tactics for controlling your news intake and “being intentional” with the use of social media and devices.

“Rule number one would be to turn your notifications off. That's not necessary for you to be notified every time a news outlet thinks you should be aware of something,” he advised. 

Dr. Porter explained that humans have a dopamine rush every time they receive a notification. And that rush can actually be harmful to a person’s mental health if the notification leads to discouraging or depressing stories.

Another useful strategy is to limit cable news.

“Cable news is something that goes 24/7, and their job is to keep people watching," Porter said. "It’s a certain saturation point that you reach, and you’re not really learning anything new. You’re just reveling in whatever sensationalism is going on.” 

Dr. Porter believes that carrying a device that is constantly notifying its user can distract them from the things they truly enjoy.

“The idea is to decide what it is that I want to focus on and set up your media life to do that," he said. "It’s [about] taking back control from the platforms you are using.”

Raime Thibideaux from the LSU Student Health Center said that humans remember and retain negative information longer because it activates the sympathetic nervous system.

Raime also provided the following tips and techniques for dealing with stress caused by the news:

  • relaxed and deep breathing
  • grounding exercises
  • attend to your bodily needs
  • physical exercise
  • get adequate sleep
  • enjoy fresh air
  • limit news consumption by setting timer
  • balance bad news intake with good news intake
  • generate self-compassion mantras

For more mental health resources, contact the LSU Student Health Center.