COVID-19—avoiding negativity online

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Health Assured team

19 February 2021

We live in a world more interconnected than ever before. We can each broadcast our thoughts, feelings and opinions to billions of people, wherever they are, with a simple click of a mouse.  

This is a good thing. Instant, always-on communication has changed the way we live and work. But there’s a darker side—negativity. 

If you’ve used social media, news sites, or even been involved in long, meandering work email chains, you'll have noticed something. Negativity—the tendency for people to see the bad in everything, and shout loudly about it—is everywhere. Whether it’s a pessimistic worldview, fear of change, or something a little less savourynegativity is an unfortunate part of online life. 

With a few changes to habits, though, it’s easy to avoid negativity and make your online life a bit easier. 

Step back 

This sounds like it should be the easiest thing to do—simply step away from the internet, and things will improve, right? 

Sadly, it’s far from simple. We rely on the internet for so many things, now, especially during the pandemic. Work, socialising, shopping—our online lives are more integrated with our ‘real’ lives than at any time previously. 

Remember, though, this wasn’t always the case. You can survive without 24/7 internet access. Put blocks on your social media usage—say, between 8pm and 8am. You’ll find that without the constant, shifting torrent of opinion and information thrown at you by the likes of Twitter and Facebook, your mood begins to improve.  

Find the positives 

If you’re a news addict—and a lot of us are, that thrill of knowing what’s happening can be quite moreish—then stepping back might not be the answer for you. What you can do is look for more positive, friendlier news sources. 

The major news sites tend toward the dramatic. And that’s fine—it’s their business model. But community-driven news sources and aggregators, such as Reddit and various Discord servers, can provide something a little more palatable. 

Even if ‘finding the positives’ for you means looking at pictures of cats for ten minutes to clear your mind of all the negativity, that’s great! The trick is to find something that works for you. 

Read between the lines 

As noted above, news thrives on doom and gloom. Sadly, a site gets more clicks by talking about new COVID variants than it does a successful vaccine.  

But you can combat this by reading news with an open mind, and looking hard at the articles presented to you. An article whose headline proclaims a new, unstoppable COVID variant will usually feature a buried sentence or two about that variant’s rarity, and will state that the issue is an outlier. Stay sharp, stay critical, and stay positive. 

Surround yourself with good people 

Talk to the people you know more! Your friends, family and co-workers are in the same boat. Steer conversations toward good and bright things. Even if you want to talk about a particularly nice cup of coffee you had, it’s better for everyone than musing over the unpleasantness happening in the world. 

Seek help 

If you’re finding that the constant, frightening negativity you see online is affecting your mental health, you should talk to a professional about your worries. Contact your GP, or call your EAP to discuss counselling.  

Ill mental health is a very serious issue. And right now, there’s almost a second, less obvious pandemic—depression, stress and anxiety brought about by the sweeping changes and restrictions COVID-19 has wrought. There is help available. Use it. 

Don’t ignore the negativity you find online. It’s important that you understand what’s happening, and how people feel. But don’t let it bring you down. 

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