The Power of the Negative News in Media

The media affects the way we act and think. It has a profound influence on the behaviour of its audience. When people try to imitate something we had seen or heard, are they capable enough to distinguish between right from wrong?

The expression, “If it bleeds, it leads,” has been used to characterize media coverage of stories since the early days of newspapers, and today’s around-the-clock news cycle has made avoiding negative news nearly impossible.

There are a lot of bad things that happen in the world, and it is probably right that people should know about these things through their reporting in news bulletins. These ‘bad things’ include crime, famine, war, violence, political unrest, and injustice, to name but a few. But there is also an increasing tendency for news broadcasters to ‘emotionalize’ their news and to do so by emphasizing any potential negative outcomes of a story no matter how low the risks of those negative outcomes might be.

We’ve known for a very long time that the emotional content of films and television programs can affect your psychological health. It can do this by directly affecting your mood, and your mood can then affect many aspects of your thinking and behaviour. If the TV program generates negative mood experiences (e.g. anxiety, sadness, anger, disgust), then these experiences will affect how you interpret events in your own life, what types of memories you recall, and how much you will worry about events in your own life.

So not only are negatively valenced news broadcasts likely to make you sadder and more anxious, they are also likely to worsen your own personal worries and anxieties. We would intuitively expect that news items reflecting war, famine and poverty might induce viewers to reflect on such topics. But the effect of negatively valenced news is much broader than that – it can potentially aggravate a range of personal concerns not specifically relevant to the content of the program itself. So, bombarding people with ‘sensationalized’ negativity does have genuine and real psychological effects. Given this effect of negativity into people’s personal lives, should TV schedulers be required to consider such effects when preparing and scheduling programs containing emotively negative content?

When we watch TV or an action movie we usually see many images of violence and people hurting others. The problem with this is that it can become traumatic especially in our children as they see it more and more. Our kids that are starting to grow and are shaping their personality values and beliefs can become aggressive or they can lose a sense of distinction between reality and fiction. Another problem is that real war is used as a form of entertainment by the media, we should make our kids and teen aware that war is not a form of entertainment and that there is no win or lose like in video games, in real war everyone lose.

A 2013 study looked at the effect of continuous media coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings on a group of respondents from New York City, Boston, and the rest of the United States. A total of 4,675 adults took an Internet-based survey within a two to four-week period after the bombings on April 25, 2013; of that sample, about 10% were directly exposed to the bombing and 9% experienced the lockdown in Boston while police were looking for the suspects. Other respondents without direct exposure to the bombing reported six or more hours of daily media exposure to bombing coverage. The results indicated those respondents viewing news coverage for six or more hours were nine times more likely to report high acute stress levels than those with minimal media time. Those who had direct exposure had continuous acute stress symptoms but were less likely to exhibit high acute stress, perhaps, as researchers suggest, because emergency responders were on the scene to provide support.

Young people often imitate their role models blindly. What is being highlighted in the entertainment industry is the wrongdoings of these celebrities whom the young people idolize. And because they are heroes in the youth`s minds, they are still celebrated despite the bad behaviour they have been showing to the public.

Teens, youngsters are in a stage of life where they want to be accepted by their peers, they want to be loved and be successful. The media creates the ideal image of beautiful men and women with all the ingredients of a successful person, you can see it in movies and TV. It’s a subliminal way to persuade the masses that if you want to be successful and look like them then you have to buy that particular brand or product. Another negative influence in teenagers that has grown over the last years is obesity. There are millions of teenagers fighting obesity, but at the same time they are exposed to thousands of advertisements of junk food, while the ideal image of a successful person is told to be thin and wealthy.

It is in the prefrontal cortex that we reason, plan, organize, focus, concentrate, and self-restrain. It is also in the prefrontal cortex that we have our conscience, experience conviction of wrong, redirect inappropriate behaviour and worship. A special part of the frontal cortex, called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is our neurological “heart.” It is here we experience love, compassion, empathy, sympathy, altruism and the ACC is also the seat of the will, the place we choose right from wrong. It is also the brain’s remote control is, a section of the brain that weighs outcomes, forms judgments and controls impulses and emotions. This section of the brain also helps people understand one another.

People must be vigilant to minimize these negative influences by being responsible towards oneself and other people especially the youth who are easy targets by the media.

 

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