Finding balance: Navigating COVID-19 media consumption

How to stay informed during the pandemic without feeling overwhelmed


Graphic by Oishee Misra

Oishee Misra

The New York Times reports that the “U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Is Far Higher Than Reported, C.D.C. Data Suggests.” The Washington Post claims that the “‘Second-week crash’ is time of peril for some covid-19 patients.” The Economist tells us that “Would-be autocrats are using covid-19 as an excuse to grab more power.” Even El Estoque says thatCOVID-19 creates resource shortages for healthcare workers and community members.”

That sense of impending doom you felt after reading those? It’s all too relatable, repetitive and unfortunately, increasingly prevalent. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s hard to come across news that isn’t anxiety-inducing, depressing, scary or all of the above. 

The easy solution here would be to, well, stop. And while that’s tempting, there seems to be an inescapable dichotomy here: read the news and become frustrated over the latest mishap (our President advising us to drink disinfectant is just one example); or don’t read the news and become uninformed. 

Yet as enticing as shielding yourself from the negativity that comes with media consumption sounds, this is not a solution we should strive towards. To put it frankly, being uninformed is dangerous. It’s important that we understand the reasons behind social distancing, because that means we are more inclined to follow such guidelines — we are already witnessing people becoming frustrated by quarantine and not heeding these measures, as evidenced by the California beach goers this past week

Not only that, but it’s necessary for us to be able to track the spread of the virus and how our legislators are dealing with it, whether it be on the local, state or national level. Although we may not have direct power, knowledge and awareness are tools through which we can feel some semblance of control in a time where it seems like an invisible virus has spun our lives out of our control. And for those of us able to donate, the news can direct us to places where we can help people who are suffering: Coronavirus charity: how to choose and donate, and How to Help Victims of the Coronavirus Pandemic, being two of multiple news articles providing guidance. 

Despite the silver linings (examples include some hosting weddings, others singing from their balconies, and decreasing CO2 emissions) and the sheer necessity of COVID-19 coverage, at the end of the day, the news is not as detached from our daily lives as we might think — every single global citizen is a victim of the pandemic, and self-care should be a priority. Isolation takes a toll on everyone, emerging in different forms depending on the person — consuming an abundance of negative media will undoubtedly exacerbate the repercussions of this. Ultimately, finding the balance between the-news-is-scary-and-makes-me-anxious and I’m-going-to-ignore-the-media looks different for everybody.

For some, this can mean reading the Skimm (a nonpartisan company that emails subscribers a brief newsletter daily for free) every day and leaving it at that. For others, it can mean following the social media account of one news company, since being sandwiched between a noodle account and a baking account may make the news more digestible (puns intended). You can even set restrictions for yourself — don’t read or watch the news after 9 p.m. Balance looks different for everyone, but what’s important is simply finding it. 

Especially in unprecedented times like these, the media is impactful, important and powerful. But don’t let it overpower you.