Turns out, there's something to all of that. But social media's likely put you on edge, too. The news makes you anxious. But the world doesn't quite work like that: Compulsively reading more isn't going to produce new answers, though it probably will work you into a lather, and thus, make you feel worse. Clive Thompson, a noted tech writer who's long focused on how gadgets and social networks impact the way we think, agrees: the influx of information from social media can be intellectually and emotionally disorienting. The nature of how we get that information online plays a role, too. Facebook's News Feed is powered by algorithms that are designed to keep you scrolling, "liking," and commenting in an infotainment social spiral serving nothing more than your own anxiety. But if you were to, say, have a face-to-face conversation instead, you might find things are a bit easier to deal with, or at least, empathize with. "Maybe someone is talking about their fear of becoming a fascist state, and you see the sadness in their face," Dr. Mattu said. "That's become a lot easier to do with social media.
Remember when Facebook was a fun place to see cute baby photos? And now it feels more like a sanitarium where everyone’s screeching about the impending apocalypse? And scrolling through it knots your stomach and makes you feel like going to bed forever?
Turns out, there’s something to all of that.
Consider how your relationship with social media’s changed since President Donald Trump took office. It’s no doubt helped you stay on top of each day’s fresh horror unleashed by the guy elected to lead our free world, like the Muslim ban railroaded into place by executive order at the end of last week. Maybe it’s helped you join—or even organize—some protests.
But social media’s likely put you on edge, too. Depending on who you’re friends with, the Facebook of today may feel less like a comforting place to stay in touch, and more like a triage unit, where everyone shouts their fears, frustrations, and arguments into the abyss. Or your face.
Confusion about what comes next—let alone the impact of what’s already come to pass—is anxiety-inducing enough. To say nothing of reading through all of it.
“One of the things about anxiety is that it’s fueled by uncertainty,” said Dr. Ali Mattu, a psychologist at the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders. “On social media, you can get news from many sources at once hitting you in many different ways, depending on who you’re following. That’s one of the things amplifying the sense of uncertainty.”
There’s a bit of a cycle here, Dr. Mattu explained. The news makes you anxious. The natural reaction to that is a craving for information that clarifies that news cycle—ostensibly, to help you feel better. But the world doesn’t quite work like that: Compulsively reading more isn’t going to produce new answers, though it probably will work you into a lather, and thus, make you feel worse.
Clive Thompson, a noted tech writer who’s long focused on how gadgets and social networks impact the way we think, agrees: the influx of information from social media can be intellectually and emotionally disorienting.
“Social media has a lot of the strengths and weaknesses of live television: It’s great at emerging crises, but not as good at anything else,” said Thompson. “It conditions you to treat everything like a crisis… I sometimes think there’s an inherent crisis mentality that flows out of instant, of-the-minute updates.”
The nature of how we get that information online plays a role, too. Facebook’s News Feed is powered by algorithms that are designed to keep you scrolling, “liking,” and commenting in an…