Tips for Tuning Out the Negative

MCS faculty have tips for cutting down on overwhelming COVID-19 coverage.

It can be nearly impossible to glance at a screen these days without quickly becoming inundated with negative news and staggering statistics. Louise Woodstock, an associate professor, suggests that unless it is vital to your professional life, limit coronavirus news to only 30 to 60 minutes per day.

“Adopt a push, rather than pull, mentality,” she says. “Marshall McLuhan coined these terms and they have some application today. Alerts and alarms, like phone notifications, are a pull strategy, they flash and ask for your attention. Instead, retake your power and take on a pull mentality. Choose an opt in. Seek the media you want, dodge content that repeats what you know.”

Anthony Nadler, an associate professor, added, “It’s generally not a good idea to block out terrible news entirely, though I can certainly understand doing so at moments of peak anxiety.”

Nadler has turned off news and social media alerts on his phone, but he notes that blocking out the news completely can cause a “sense of alienation and disconnection from your communities as they try to respond, cope and rebuild. Blocking all negative news can lead to a haunting sense that catastrophe is unfolding while you are plugging your ears.”

Lynne Edwards offered a counter to the negative by suggesting that every time you read or avoid an upsetting message, you can turn it around by sending a positive message. Check in with friends and acquaintances with text messages asking how they’re doing or recalling positive memories together.

“All of these suggestions can also be replaced with physical activity and favorite music, but the key point is the empowering act of maintaining some power in creating positive interactions with social media in these scary times,” Edwards said.

She has noticed this trend of positivity in her personal life too. “My son turned six on Wednesday and has been very brave about his cancelled go-kart birthday party and not seeing his grandparents for our regular birthday party. I posted a request on our development’s Facebook page asking if anyone could chalk a birthday message to Erik in their driveways so we could see them on our afternoon walk. At least 40 houses did it, with huge displays of colors, balloons, gifts—it was like they needed something nice to do!”—By Mary Lobo’15