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News consumption may take a toll on students’ mental health

by PATRICIA RICHARDS

Drake University is an epicenter of cultural discourse, surrounding students with news and views from across the spectrum. However, constantly being plugged in might be causing students to stress out.

According to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey, more than half of adults say they want to stay informed but keeping up with the news causes them stress. This creates a split where individuals feel as if they must choose between staying informed and staying positive. 

“I feel like I see a lot more bad news than good news recently … all the reports of everything that’s going wrong in the world,” Esther Gendler said.

While TV news remains the dominant form of consumption for older Americans according to the Pew Research Center, news consumption is done primarily online for adults 18-49. 

The youngest of these, ages 18-29, cite social media as their go-to news outlet.

“I follow a lot of accounts on social media, so if I see something that sparks my interest, I’ll click on it. I check The New York Times [website] pretty frequently as well,” Gendler said.

Second-year student Kylee Macke echoes these sentiments.

“I get a lot [of news] from Twitter,” said Macke. “If it pops up in my feed and I’m interested in learning about it, then I’ll go to Apple News or look it up … Social media is my main form of staying up to date with [politics]. Being at Drake too though, especially in the J-school. I’m more [politically] conscious than ever.”

Gendler also cites social media as one of the primary ways she stays up-to-date on politics.

“I follow candidates on their social media platforms and try to read articles about them pretty frequently,” Gendler said.

With students being surrounded by news both online and off, it may be difficult for them to remain calm and collected in the face of an increasingly bleak news cycle. While the easy solution would be to just shut the phone off at times, this is no easy feat. In fact, research suggests growing up in the digital age may have had an effect on Gen Z’s impulse control. 

The famous marshmallow test, an experiment designed to measure self-control, has been given to children in three different decades. The resulting data, published in Developmental Psychology, shows that children born in the 2000s were able to wait up to a minute longer before consuming their marshmallow than children born in the 80s and two minutes longer than those born in the 1960s. This impulse control could easily translate to self-regulation of media intake, or lack thereof. 

Macke said she began using social media in 5th grade and got her first smartphone just a few years later around age 14, meaning she’s been plugged in roughly half of her life. 

“I’ve just kind of figured it out … I don’t really feel the need to limit myself,” Macke said. “I can go without.” 

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