How The Mainstream Media Sold Our Mental Health For Clicks

The world is on the verge of collapse. Thousands of deaths, collapsing economies and eternal lockdowns. Life will never be the same as it was before COVID19 and we will never go back to normal. Never ever.

Sounds like a paragraph from a dystopian novel. But it is not. These were just a few headlines from the mainstream media. And believe me, I really did not want to write about the media – I started my blog to help people who are suffering from anxiety disorders, especially from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – however, today I feel that I just can not keep silent any longer. Or I just do not want to keep silent any longer, I don’t know.

I really do not want to generalize and I do think that the majority of journalists are good people who just want to help us with the information they share, however, I think that what has been happening in the mainstream media for the last couple of weeks is simply disgusting. Yes, I know this might be a strong word but I do think it is disgusting. Or we could say it’s outrageous. Or irresponsible. Whichever you like more. Again, I would like to emphasize that I do appreciate the work most of the journalists are doing – but I would like to address this article to the ones who are spreading panic without even thinking about the effects it may have on other people.

So, as many of my readers know I have had OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) for most of my life. And I perfectly know what it feels like to be paralyzed with fear and how dangerous it can be to spend your whole life worrying about literary everything. And this is exactly why I feel sad when I see that the mainstream media is fueling panic instead of providing helpful and reliable information to the people who would really need it.

And I know that the things I am going to say will not make me popular. I know that some people may call me totally irresponsible or they will say that blaming media is absolutely unfair. Or some will say that we should not bury our heads in the sand.

So where to start….At the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak, I thought that the mainstream media was spreading fear because they wanted to act responsibly and they just wanted to make sure people were aware of the risk and taking care of themselves. Was I right? Honestly, no idea. I might have been naive. But what I know for sure is that since then, the media’s fear-mongering has totally gone out of control.

We all know that the situation is dire but most of the news websites and TV channels just refuse to help us. Instead of giving helpful information from reliable sources and presenting facts, they have decided to sacrifice our mental health for more views. The scarier the title, the better. The more shocking news you share, the better. Again, a few weeks ago this behavior was kind of understandable: people had to be informed about the risks so that they would take this whole thing seriously. But then, the world went on lockdown, there’re millions of people all around the world who are not allowed to leave their homes and many others who self-isolate on a voluntary basis. I do not know what it is like in your cities, but I can tell you that most of the people I know are terribly afraid of the virus and they do behave responsibly.

So, at this point, one would really expect the media to be…let’s say a little bit more encouraging. Maybe they could share more positive news about the people who have recovered from the disease or facts about the slowing pandemic. They could help people see the light at the end of the tunnel. Especially that people have started spending much more time consuming media content since the lockdown began. Like if you have to stay at home for a long time, you will be much more likely to start watching TV or read the news.

But of course, positive news are not that valuable. Negative headlines do much better than positive ones. Guess that’s just human nature – most of us are more likely to check an article with a shocking headline. And views mean money. But how much money? Well, It really depends on platform I guess but one single click is definitely not worth a lot of money – it’s probably worth much less than a dollar.

Reading a fear-mongering article about a potential apocalypse may give you a sleepless night – and it will earn the media a few cents.

Now, let’s not live in denial. I do not want to say that they actually sell your mental health for a few cents because there’s truth in what they say. I do not believe in conspiracy theories especially that I do know people who have experienced the tragedy of this illness. But for some reason the mainstream media prefers fear-mongering over presenting facts or sharing a dialogue between experts. I am not a scientist so I really do not want to give examples, but what I have noticed is that if an expert from a prestigious university says that the death rate of COVID19 could be lower than we previously thought, the media will not spend too much time on reporting about it – they prefer sharing someone else’s shocking ideas: about scary symptoms, skyrocketing death rate and catastrophic predictions. Optimistic news soon disappear in your newsfeed and gloomy prophecies will start taking over.

And then, fear is not enough. There should be hate! We have to find a scapegoat – people we can blame for this whole crisis. And the mainstream media turns against its own creatures: people who do not panic enough. They are the new villains who’re depicted as monsters, enemies of our society who only care about themselves and who are a dangerous threat to all of us. They live in denial and they endanger other people with their irresponsible behavior. Now, I am not one of these people because believe me, I am in panic. But do I think we should be angry at those who are a little bit “more relaxed” or live in denial? I do not think they are the only ones to blame – they are this way because they do not trust the media anymore. Can we really say that they are bad people? At this point, I guess many of you want to stop reading this post but give me a few minutes to explain what I mean by giving an example.

As many of my readers may know, I am from a small Central European country: Hungary. And we have a folk tale that reminds me a lot to this situation.

The Story Of The Bunnies And The Wolf

Cute bunnies live in an idyllic village and one of them is a true pain in the neck. Let’s just call him Fearmongering Bunny. Why this name? Because he just loves telling other bunnies that the wolf was coming to eat them all. He enjoys this so much that he does it extremely often. Everyday. Fearmongering Bunny often goes to the nearby forest and runs back to the village, out of breath, telling the others that the evil wolf attacked him and that he (the wolf) is on his way to the village! At the beginning, his fellow bunnies used to believe him. They really did. But one day, they realized that Fearmongering Bunny was a liar and that the wolf had never actually reached the village. But soon, the wolf really comes to the village and Fearmongering Bunny wants to let everyone know about the danger. He starts running around shouting “the wolf is coming, the wolf is coming”. But nobody believes him anymore. Why would they? They can not trust a fearmongering liar. So they do not do anything, they do not try to run away. And the wolf kills them all.

Our world is just like the “bunny village”. A place where the mainstream media is Fearmongering Bunny and the real threat is that we do not know anymore what we can believe from all the things it is telling us. In 2009, they said that H1N1 would kill us all. Then the end of the world was scheduled for 2012. So are we really surprised that there are people who are skeptical? The wolf has arrived to our village, yet, we do not know how dangerous it is or what impact it will have. And you would expect the media to give up on fear-mongering and to present facts that are currently available. But do not expect too much from them, they haven’t given up on being Fearmongering Bunny. They keep shouting that wolf is here – and this wolf gets scarier and scarier every single day – but apart from that, do they have anything else to say?

Does The Mainstream Media Suffer From Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and one of the symptoms of it is “catastrophizing” – which means that I always imagine the worst case scenario. But I am aware of my condition, I always try to be optimistic and I try not to scare other people to death by sharing my catastrophic thoughts with them. Again, we should not bury our heads in the sand, but at the same time I think that spreading panic is simply irresponsible.

So, why do I say that media was suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Because they love writing about worst case scenarios! Countries that are having slowing infection rates or are easing restrictions are not interesting. Some say this whole thing will soon get better – that’s not interesting. What we need is a shocking deadline about having to spend the next decade on lockdown with millions dying of the virus. Do not get me wrong, we should not censor negative news but I do not think it’s the media’s responsibility to present conflicting opinions and facts. But what do they do instead? They just get the scariest possible outcome and write a terrifying article about it!

Taking absolutely no responsibility

And what I found the most outrageous is that the media takes absolutely no responsibility for the damage it’s done. There are more and more articles about people committing suicide over coronavirus worries. And what does the media say? That it was because of the lockdown or because of practicing self-isolation. Well, it surely played a role but they always miss to mention that one of the main reason people feel scared and hopeless is the way how the media is presenting the news. Did I sound like blaming them for other people’s death? I think I did. But I do think that we just can not ignore the role of the media when it comes to rising depression rates and suicides – their gloomy prophecies definitely make people feel hopeless. And it’s not only difficult for people with mental health issues – it’s difficult for all of us!

Making Money From Human Tragedies

Yes..another thing is making money from human tragedies. This is something that I find the most unforgivable. While it’s important to inform the world about the present situation, I do not think it’s an okay thing to earn money from clickbait articles about human tragedies.

All the people who died had their own dreams and had people who loved them. For the media they only mean an article that’s worth a few dollars but for someone they meant the whole world.

Will We Ever Go Back To Normal?

Many say that they do not even want the world to be the same as it was before COVID19. I am not one of those people. I want to go back to normal – and I hope everything will be the same. But one thing that I really hope is that the mainstream media will change. That they will learn from this experience and they will not go back to “normal”, but they will start being more responsible.

Further Reading

12 thoughts on “How The Mainstream Media Sold Our Mental Health For Clicks

  1. I think that part of the problem is internet-related; specifically, the huge number of. media outlets, and the societal expectation that things be available online for free. Nothing comes for free, and part of the price we pay is click-bait headlines to bring in some ad revenue.

    I also have a bit of a difference of opinion, in that I think that people need to make proactive, responsible choices about where they access their news. Then again, I’m in Canada and getting my non-sensationalistic news from our national public broadcaster. But there are other news outlets out there that do take a relatively balanced approach, and people have the option to choose those rather than the clickbait.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I guess you are right about that like..I get most of the news from the internet so probably that’s why I have this opinion. And well…in my country, it kind of went out of control. For most of the people it’s very difficult to find non-sensationalistic news 😦

      Like TV channels are pretty okay to be honest but the internet is “full of terror”. And the saddest thing is that a lot of prestigious news websites decided to “go clickbait” . and well, yes it’s also up to the people where they access their news from but it is sometimes difficult to know what is true and what is not.

      What is the name of your national broadcaster? Would be great to have access to reliable news!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bravo to you for having the courage to express your views that are not popular with the masses.

    The coronavirus situation is most serious, indeed, but it will end and life will get back to normal, eventually, although with some changes in how we interact. In the US, the mainstream media, which loathes the current President (he is an easy target and I am not a supporter of him), is spreading fear so he won’t be re-elected.

    I live in the US which has seen about 30,000 deaths from the coronavirus, which equals the number of people who die every year in this country in automobile accidents. During the Spanish flu, almost 700,000 Americans died and the population was one-third of what it is today. Almost 30 MILLION Americans became sick…

    I could write about the scourge of “social media” (a phrase that is an oxymoron, in my opinion) or the curse of 60 Minutes, because that’s when TV networks realized they could make money with news. The cause doesn’t matter and, I’m afraid, no solution is in sight. As individual citizens we simply have to be diligent about remembering that almost everyone has an agenda and that strongly influences what we say and do.

    Stay safe and be well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! πŸ™‚ I just really felt I couldn’t stay silent any longer.
      Well yes – same in my country. This whole crisis turned into a political question with the current government being pretty relaxed when it comes to restrictions and the state media trying not to spread fear while the opposition comes up with terrifying news on a daily basis – do not get me wrong, I really do not have any issues with the opposition but I am sad to see that a lot of professional news websites have turned into fear-mongering trash.

      And well, yes. We’re pretty much exposed to the US mainstream media so I guess we get the same news – and as we’re not in the US it’s even more difficult to decide what is true and what is not.

      Honestly, I do not know what to believe anymore and I have absolutely no knowledge about medicine. A lower death rate would seem more logical to me because I guess a lot of people who have it go undetected.

      Oh let’s not even mention social media – I have totally stopped using it. The number of wannabe epidemiologists grows much more quickly than the new coronavirus cases… And the worst thing is that these wannabe epidemiologists just keep spreading panic – like if there’s something positive happening, there will surely be a hundred people leaving some scary comments

      Stay safe πŸ™‚

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The media can be fear-mongering that is a fact. I only watch a global overview maybe once every two to three days and when our MP speaks on television about the measurements that are being taken. As I understand they are really preparing to go back to normal in a step-by-step approach. I see this in other countries too.
    I think we need to be wise about what media we give our time, attention and clicks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well yes πŸ™‚ that’s what I am planning to do: like only watching some kind of global overview but sometimes I just feel that I need to check the news – guess because of my OCD.

      Glad to hear that your country is preparing to go back to normal πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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