How to Read, Share & Cope with COVID-19 News
It feels like COVID-19 is not just the biggest news story, but also the only. Every headline of every major news outlet relates to the pandemic. This barrage of updates, impacts, and predictions can be too much for the mind to handle. Take a moment to breathe. There are numerous ways to take in all this news, separate facts from misleading clickbait or outright lies, and keep each other updated in a healthy and constructive manner. This starts by reflecting on how you go about getting your news.
Social media throws seemingly endless news in your direction each and every day. As you sit at home sifting through COVID-19 updates, pay close attention to your news-consuming habits. What websites do you frequently visit? Which sources do you tend to go to more than others? Within those articles, check to see what sources they are using for their research, and ensure it is a reputable and credible organization or expert. Watch out for poor grammar or multiple spelling mistakes, which can be signs of hastily written and poorly researched pieces. Use trusted sites such as the World Health Organization’s myth busters page, especially for scientific information on COVID-19. False information can not only be wrong, but also dangerous.
Pay attention to how you are sharing news and taking in news shared on social media. Fully read the entire article, not just the headline, before posting to Facebook or Twitter. Be wary if a site is overly eager to get you to share its page, as aggressive viral marketing is an effective method of spreading false information. Add your own comments to the post to encourage conversation amongst friends as opposed to presenting the information as fact. A lot of the ramifications and science related to COVID-19 is still in the early stages and being worked out, so it is best to avoid pieces that claim to have “proof” about the virus’s effects. When you notice pages or profiles sharing news that is definitely false, call it out and encourage your friends to unfollow pages that are more focused on building an audience than being accurate. Have a critical eye for everything you and others share.
All of this can be overwhelming. It is more important than ever to take breaks away from the news cycle. The constant negative and often contradictory information can take a detrimental toll on your health. It can lead to loss of sleep, increased anxiety, and the mental and physical harm that comes with depression. Make it a habit to step away from your screens on a regular basis. There is no need to or advantage in reading the same news incessantly, and you may want to catch up on news just once a day. Use that time instead to connect with friends, rest, and enjoy hobbies. Certain professionals, like journalists and government officials, may find themselves consumed with news more than most people. But for many, stepping away from the media for the rest of the day will not be a problem. In fact, it might be just what you need.
The Internet and social media have made news and information more complex than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has simply exasperated an existing problem. Be critical. Verify what you read. Discuss what you share. Step away when needed. There are numerous good habits you can build to help you traverse the social media landscape and consume news in a healthier and more useful way. That being said, no one is free from bias. You cannot get rid of yours, but you can work hard to minimize it. Utilize multiple sources and discuss news with others. There is a lot of news out there. Take a breath and dig in.
Kh, Ryan. “How to Avoid Fake News About COVID-19 on Social Media.” Social Media Explorer. https://socialmediaexplorer.com/content-sections/news-and-noise/how-to-avoid-fake-news-about-covid-19-on-social-media/
Savage, Maddy. “Coronavirus: How much news is too much?” BBC. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200505-coronavirus-how-much-news-is-too-much
Vanderslott, Samantha. “Here are Simple Tips to Help You Avoid Fake Coronavirus News.” Science Alert. https://www.sciencealert.com/fake-coronavirus-news-is-everywhere-here-s-how-to-discern-the-facts-not-the-fiction