Looking At Social Media In Times Of Crisis Is Bad For Your Mental Health

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
Chances are, you consume most of your news through social media feeds on Twitter or Facebook. But while social media keeps us informed, a new study says that constantly refreshing your feed during a time of crisis (say, a natural disaster, or a mass shooting) can be damaging for your mental health, Bustle reports.
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine surveyed almost 4,000 students a few days after an active shooter was reported on campus. The students had been part of a two-hour campus lockdown while authorities searched the campus, and had to rely on updates from school officials or from social media and texts from friends. Researchers found that those who relied on texts and social media for updates experienced more distress than those who didn't.
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The study, of course, examined people in a highly stressful and terrifying experience, but its findings have greater implications for the way we receive news.
"In the past, people relied on radio and television broadcasts to reduce uncertainty," a press release about the study reads. "Today social media channels are frequently the source of updates, and users are exposed to a greater amount of conflicting speculation and unverified reports."
The unverified reports, researchers said, can lead to negative mental health effects.
"When announcements and updates from official channels are lacking or irregular, there's a high risk that rumors will fill the void," principal investigator Roxane Cohen Silver, professor of psychology and social behavior, said in a statement.
Of course, we're not saying you need to shut off your phone completely during a time of crisis (we know how difficult it can be to tear away). But as always, your health should be your priority, and when necessary, don't be afraid to ask for help managing emotional distress.
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
If you are experiencing depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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