For most of us, the last time there was this much media attention given to a single event was 9/11. The difference between the two situations is that the emotional and physical impact of 9/11 was vastly more severe in the days immediately following the attacks but subsided relatively quickly compared to what we are seeing with the pandemic which started as a slow burning fire but now looks like a long term conflagration.
Unless you are able to isolate yourself in a remote location with no access to others, social media and the news, it will be extremely difficult to avoid receiving high volumes of both accurate and false information.
The impact of this goes beyond wasted time.
Excessive amounts of negative information increases stress levels, and, unless we are careful about where we are procuring our updates, may just further harden the bias bubbles we are already living in. The spread of misinformation itself is a virus.
Don’t get me wrong. The current situation is serious and each of us has the potential to be impacted to a greater extent than we already have been so it is responsible for us to want to remain informed but how do we avoid going down the rabbit hole of pursuing too much information?
I wrote last week about the importance of establishing at least one positive daily routine and sticking with it. Do the same for updates about the pandemic.
I won’t call it simple, but here’s a four-step process to regaining control over information overload.
- Identify the sources of trusted information you will follow to understand what is going on. Given travel restrictions, for most of us, the real impacts will be limited to the country and city we live in so focus there. If you come up with more than three, ask yourself if there is really that much incremental value to justify more.
- Determine a time each day when you will get your updates and time-box how much time you will spend.
- Every time someone sends you a link on social media, before you click, check yourself. Do you REALLY need to follow that link? What is the probability that there will be something of value beyond what you are already getting from your trusted sources of information.
- Resist the temptation to share pandemic updates with those in your social network. Trust that they have the ability to locate what is important to them.
Physical distancing has become a proven method for protecting the physical health of us and those around us.
Be mindful about COVID-19 information updates to do the same for your mental health.