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Does Round-the-Clock News Increase Public Fear?

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Does it seem like in today’s society we carry a higher level of fear than we did in years past? Or is it the same level as it has been over the decades and centuries?

On any given day, if you were to take a look at any news source you're likely to see a constant stream of terrible or heartbreaking events. Some statistics have suggested that for every 17 negative stories, we see only 1 positive one.  [1] You figure an average day's news consists of reports of murder, injury, terrorism, war, identity theft, natural disasters, kidnapping, and other horrific events.

Not too much good news in the mix typically. As a result, many parents fear letting their kids go outside, or do anything without close supervision, people are afraid to travel and they also worry about how to keep their personal information secure – just to name a few worries. There is a lot to be afraid of, and we know this because these fears are being fed to us through constant daily news feeds.

scared young boy hiding
Credit: ambermb via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/little-boy-hiding-sad-child-fear-1635065/

Even our kids are affected by exposure to the constant negativity presented in news reports. According to some statistics, many children who are conscious of TV and/or newspaper reports are afraid of events, such as kidnappers, burglars and nuclear war. [4] Many children who are listening to the news around them are probably also worrying about terrorism.

That being said, perhaps the real question is if whether or not there is truly more to worry about today than there was in days of yesteryear? Or is it just we are more aware?

‘If it Bleeds, it Leads’

There is an old saying that states, "if it bleeds, it leads". It is common these days for the news to run a story before the actual events are known with reports include more speculation rather than actual facts; unfortunately, sometimes this is taken as truth to the audiences as they catch glimpses of video clips or hear sound bites. Any sort of tragedy and fearful event today is reported, re-reported, analyzed, studied and picked apart into little pieces – often before all the facts are even known.

These days we not only have constant news feeds, but also talk radio, talk TV and other opinion-based shows which discuss global and national news-based issues. News has become more editorialized with personal opinions and slants integrated into the stories. While some reporting agencies stick to “just the facts” in televised or written forms, not all of them do. And some of them report on or talk about the same issue over and over again even though there is nothing new to share.

TV news crew
Credit: bancerz via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/tv-team-television-and-radio-1251276/

Is Today’s World Really More Violent?

Is there really more to be afraid of or is it simply the hype and sensationalism streamed by the media which causes society to feel today's world is a more frightening one? Years ago there was no such thing as on-demand information from the Internet. There was not readily available access to cable television with round the clock news. Print media was limited and only in paper form, but today you can hop online and extract news from all over the world at any given time of the day and see recaps or even as it happens live.

Does this constant stream of negativity do something to our psyche?

“Negative news can significantly change an individual’s mood — especially if there is a tendency in the news broadcasts to emphasize suffering and also the emotional components of the story,” Dr. Graham Davey, a psychologist in Great Britain, told The Huffington Post. “In particular... negative news can affect your own personal worries. Viewing negative news means that you’re likely to see your own personal worries as more threatening and severe, and when you do start worrying about them, you’re more likely to find your worry difficult to control and more distressing than it would normally be.” [2]

In today's information driven world people have news exposure available 24/7.

Alarm clocks
Credit: Iva Balk via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/alarm-clock-museum-a-collection-of-1647866/

Does a constant stream of negative news lead to increased fear in society?

With so much news constantly generated society is more acutely aware of what is going on worldwide and it seems plausible, as a result, our fear level has heightened. Does this mean there is truly more to be afraid of in the world, or do we just feel as if times are more dangerous because we’re being told it is?

Distinguishing Commentary from Journalism

Granted, the media providing information is a valuable mechanism, but responsible reporting is a better one. Many shows have blurred the line in distinguishing commentary from journalism, and this often heightens fear. Where does the line get drawn?

This is not to undermine the very serious issues which make fear so prominent today, but many of the problems occurring in the world have always existed. Could it be the reason for heightened fear today is that before 24/7 news access people weren't aware simply because the daily news hour could only fit so much into the limited air time and much was overlooked? Also, problems have evolved simply due to the technology available, but in days past there were undoubtedly other issues to contend with and be afraid of. However, the events weren't so widespread simply due to lack of access to news.

Every generation has had its challenges, occurrences and the trials of their times to fear. Perhaps one difference today is that people are more acutely aware of the events occurring in the world and act on these fears?

And doesn’t fear tend to create more widespread fear?  Is today’s world scarier than it was year’s past? Or is it simply a difference in the level of awareness that people have today due to the easy access to information? What do you think?

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Comments

Nov 12, 2016 1:27pm
HLesley
I stopped watching the TV news on a daily basis ages ago because I found it depressing, but now we are bombrded with news on Facebook!
Nov 13, 2016 10:46am
LeighGoessl
FB has sort of changed the dynamics, hasn't it?
(Ironically, one of the next articles I have almost ready to go is about cutting back Facebook time lol).
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Bibliography

  1. "Why We Love Bad News More Than Good News." Psychology Today. 04/11/2014. 13/09/2016 <Web >
  2. "What Constant Exposure To Negative News Is Doing To Our Mental Health." Huffington Post. 19/02/2015. 13/09/2016 <Web >
  3. "Why Americans Are More Afraid Than They Used to Be." Time . 06/01/2016. 13/09/2016 <Web >
  4. "Understanding Childhood Fears and Anxieties." American Academy of Pediatrics. 13/09/2016 <Web >

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