A New Study On Wednesday, perhaps your only deepest fear is that you'll be following Twitter or cable news during a mass tragedy like the recent shootout. It is believed that media coverage of these events can trigger a vicious emotional cycle that not only leaves you in despair, but also tends to prepare you for the next widespread cruelty.
For their Science-published study Progress, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, used the Knowledge Panel of survey company GfK, a service that offers users a small cash reward on every online or telephone survey they visit. Although the service has its limitations (people who regularly conduct paid surveys may not be representative of the general population), they allowed researchers to relatively easily examine the same group of people for a relatively long time, in this case about three years.
Shortly after the bombing of the Boston Marathon in April 2013, around 4,500 people were interviewed. Three people were killed and more than 250 injured. Among other things, these volunteers were asked about their emotional response to the bombing, their coverage of the attack in the media and their concerns about future tragic events.
Other studies have shown that people have been hit the hardest The media about the tragedy felt stressed, even when asked again six months later. For the biennial anniversary of the bombing raids, they were even more worried about the future. When interviewed at least five days after the Pulse Nightclub shoot in June 2016 in Orlando, Florida, these individuals also reported more frequently that they were watching the media coverage of this event. Still, the people who were most concerned with reporting on the Pulse Shoot felt more tormented.
"These findings corroborate previous work by our lab (and others) who consistently demonstrated a link between event-driven media consumption and stress symptoms following a collective trauma such as mass violence," lead author Rebecca Thompson, a UCI psychologist, told Gizmodo per E-mail. "Our study is unique in that for the first time it reveals the pattern of repeated media exposure under tremendous force and over time and over several events among a large number of individuals persecuted for several years."  One wonders how responsibly social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube could spur this cycle, as they often amplify our worst impulses and regularly allow bad actors to spread false or misleading reports of a public tragedy with the recent one Fire of the Cathedral Notre Dame). Thompson and her team took into account the various ways in which people receive their messages and interviewed the volunteers as they were exposed to seven different sources of media consumption, including social media. However, they did not bother with how often people got messages from a branch, nor how the individual branches could affect our collective psyche.
"This issue is at the center of ongoing work in our lab," he told Thompson
As depressing as the study may be, it's barely the first to show a similar "contagion effect" from the media. Research has consistently shown that media coverage of a celebrity's suicide may increase the risk that viewers experience suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts. Just as health organizations have established guidelines for reporting on responsible suicide (though this is often not the case), Thompson says, there are ways for the media to mitigate the desperation they inflict on their audiences.
For media companies, we recommend moderating the sensational aspects of reporting on these events so as not to cause excessive concern and concern among viewers, "she said.
Spectators can take steps to protect their emotional state when the next mass tragedy inevitably occurs.
"For those who are at home, we recommend more mindfulness when deciding how much media coverage they consume," she said. "Using the media for information during a mass tragedy is not psychologically harmful in and of itself, but not being consumed by these events as they occur could reduce the burden on our respondents."