In this Millennium Hope podcast episode segment, Derek Bylsma takes on the mental health topic surrounding instant access to bad news and what can we do about it for better mental health.
Full Transcript for Instant Access to Bad News and What to Do About It:
Eric: Yesterday, I had this experience where we’re sitting on the couch and we’re going to watch something and I just pulled out my phone and for whatever reason, I just went to Twitter and I don’t know what I was checking it, as wanted to glance at it, and a story came up about a family or a two-year-old, and again I don’t know the facts if is this is actually true or not and it seemed like it was, but it was a two-year-old who lost both of his parents in the shooting in Highland Park.
And so much as you know, and it’s close to home for you all in Chicago, kind of taking it from the perspective of way outside like, again, living in the Southeast, for example, we’re not there, these incidents in these attacks are happening all over the place at this point, but when someone goes into their feed, and I wasn’t seeking this out, it just showed itself to me, and that’s hard, right for myself and my wife even said, like so said something like, what’s up? What’s the matter?
And it just hit me that this two-year-old lost both of his parents in the shooting, from what I can tell.
This is constant, right? This instant access to bad news. Anytime you show up, you’re seeing these things that are just devastating. As people who might be out there and they’re seeking help and they go talk to a therapist about it but like in the moment or there’s so much there just to even take in. Like, there’s so much news and we can learn about the bad news, and the good news at any moment’s notice with, like, no delay and it didn’t use to be that way and it like almost overnight it feels like, it is now that way.
How can people cope with that and maybe that’s the word. Like, how do we cope with all of this news and all of this information that’s out there now and just ready for you. Even when you’re not seeking it out and oftentimes people are seeking out, so it goes both ways.
Derek: Yeah, I mean I think that situation you talked about, I believe it’s true. I believe that’s exactly what happened and you’re right that we kind of got these constant news feeds of different things that oftentimes don’t feel like good news and they were just really devastating things like the situation that you just talked about.
I think that from a global standpoint, we need to make sure that we have all of us are proactive and have support systems in place and that goes a long way because you don’t ever know when something’s been happening. You don’t ever know with that instant access to bad news when something that’s going to be really upsetting and there’s a lot of ways to do that, but I think making sure you have open lines of communication with your family and friends and people that feel like are supportive of you.
Another thing you can do is establish a relationship with a therapist or counselor and not even if you see them all the time. You may not need to see them very often or you may not want to see them very often, but if you have already that existing relationship, it makes it much easier to reach out to those people. And we’ve had a lot of that over the last several days. You know, people that we worked with in the past that have reached back out to us, and just maybe want a couple of sessions. But I think it’s beyond just the therapy community, I think that for all of us we need to make sure that we understand what we’re going to do.
It is kind of if you have a dental emergency. Most people have a dentist that they could reach out to and know what would happen as if they had some big emergency, they know what they would do. And in addition to that, there are hotlines and there are some systems set up in place for kind of immediate help for people. But I think it’s really difficult for people to share how they’re feeling and what’s really going on inside. And it makes it easier if you have somebody familiar.
And so, as I said, I would just say that we all need to be very proactive in knowing what our resources are and what our support system is and making sure that those lines of communication are open. So that if we do need some extra help and like I said, it can be friends, it can be family can be, there’s a lot of different ways to do that but I think over the last several years, everything has been so reactive because things keep just going on and I don’t think that’s any fault of anybody. I think that there’s just been a lot more kind of bigger issues over the last several years. And so, I think, but for now, if I was talking to the general public, I would say establish that support system, those relationships and know, kind of, who you would turn to, in a time when you’re really struggling and make sure that you’re talking about it and not just trying to push it down and avoid it because that’s ultimately what ends up making it typically harder to deal with. Even though at the time, it might seem like a good option for you.
Eric: Is there an awareness piece since there is instant access to bad news to know that if an individual is logging on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook or any of these different platforms like you could develop a habit to go for something else instead. Like, replace that habit with going for a walk or making a phone call to somebody or reading a book. As opposed to just going there, because the best way to avoid it is to avoid it, right? But that is easier said than done and again like you might be going in there to check on predictions for the Chicago Bulls’ upcoming season and up comes this information about what happened in Highland Park. Like you’re not even looking for it. So you almost have to stay away from certain things or go to areas that are very specific to what you are looking for. Go to ESPN if you want to read about that stuff but even in those places, I mean there’s toxic news coming out there as well with clickbait headlines that are meant to trigger people so they can sell more advertisements.
Are their ways or their tools, and again you can’t necessarily solve it in just one conversation, but perhaps you’re not going to maybe totally avoid it and maybe some people could, but like staying away from that information that is no doubt going to be there.
Derek: Yeah, I mean, I think that most people who do what I do, would agree that social media has not had a positive impact on mental health. I think that there’s kind of the 24-hour news cycle with instant access to bad news and there’s information being fed to and a lot of that information is what people are looking at right now and when you have some big event then that going to be at the kind of the top of the line.
I think that we all need to be really careful that we don’t get caught up, kind of just being online and on our phones and on the computers, and like you said, there are a lot of different things we can do. We can go for a walk. I think it’s important that sometimes people leave their phone wherever they are and just get away from it for a while. I mean, I think the other thing, the combination of social media and smartphones has been that we are constantly in contact now.
And I think that there are some positive things about it and there are some things that could be helpful, but I don’t think that the resources and the positive support systems we have or anybody has, can make up for the kind of constant feeding of information. And again, I don’t think this is something too nefarious. I don’t think anybody’s trying to do this. I think it’s just people are kind of putting out there what they believe people are kind of are interested in. So I think it does come down to the individual to make sure that we’re doing our own self-care and limiting. And one of those things is phones these days, they can track how long you’ve been on the internet every day. And so, I think those are, like, many people, pay attention to how many steps they have in a day. How much exercise they have. I think we also need to pay attention to how much time we’re really spending on the web and kind of limit that for ourselves.
Eric: Yeah, there’s a lot of topics that lead to polarizing conversations where maybe you mean well on the front end but then you kind of get deeper into that conversation. Like you can take global warming, right? I thought about politics is an obvious one. Even sports, right? Like if you spend enough time and you go into a topic and it could just be like again, it could be about the Chicago Bears and they’re upset about the coach and what’s going to happen this season. And then you just dive a little bit into that Twitter thread and you see the conversation that’s taking place and you see like, this combative behavior and some of its good nature and some of it’s all in fun and then other times it just goes into this toxic place.
And yes it does happen in public. Like you out and you could see people outside the stadium yelling and getting at each other and get into a fight so it’s not like just solely on social media and it’s kind of like goes to your point before. But what is it that leads people to have these combative and it’s like more so than ever on social media, that they’re just like willing to just stand for whatever strong belief they have and they’re going all in with that and they’re not backing down. And then it just escalates and then it’s so easy for anyone on the outside to come in and add their two cents and then it just takes off.
Derek: Yeah, I mean I think in general human beings are not comfortable with conflict and so if your face to face, it’s much more difficult to say something that you know might make somebody else upset. I think, when you’re online many times, you’re totally anonymous. Sometimes people will be under their handle or their profile or whatever. But for the most part, there’s not going to be any direct conflict. Then you can come and go in that conversation whenever you want. You can put out something that you know is going to anger a lot of people and then guess what you can just set your phone down and walk away and let everybody else fight about it.
I think that the ability to be anonymous and also not having to have a face-to-face conversation is a big piece of what that leads to. I think the other piece is, is I think just in general our society is more like that. There are more people kind of being pushed to the outer sides of things and less people in the middle or at least it appears so. I actually think that most Americans are in kind of a middle group of thoughts. And for the most part, I think we agree as a total on many of these things, but I think that with the way, you know, you mentioned politics, the political systems and things like that is, is the sides have gotten farther apart. People have been encouraged to grow that divisiveness. So I think that people are willing to go down that path because I think they believe they’re fighting for what they think is, right? And a lot of times people fight for what is right, but I’m not sure that social media is the most effective way to do it because I’m not sure many people’s opinions are being changed, or that they’re learning a whole lot from a thread that’s where two people are arguing or five people arguing about something. I just don’t know that we learn a lot from that and we grow much from that.
Eric: Why mentally are people not willing to change their minds about topics like from what you understand and know.
Derek: I mean, I think there are several factors that go into that. If you look at it statistically people’s political beliefs, it’s been a while since I looked at this. But last night I saw is 85% have the same kind of political leanings as their parents. And so, I think we’re all brought up in these different environments where we’re taught these different things about what’s right, and what’s wrong, and what’s good and what’s bad. And I think that we’re kind of stuck to a belief system that we believe to be true and, you know, at times our true and so we feel like we’re fighting for who we are and what we know and more so than the bigger situation of it all in, and kind of can we learn from that?
I think the other thing is I think that a lot of sources over the past several years have been discredited. I think people don’t necessarily… I think you used to be able to present a fact to somebody and they would make them think. It might actually help them change a little bit of the way we’re thinking. I think that now what happens is that people, what you will present a fact and people will just say, “well that’s not true.” Even with the kind of thing that seems like they should be fact. The argument is well, that’s fake. That’s not true.
And part of the problem is that there’s a lot of fake stuff out there. There is a lot of bad information and so I think that it’s just kind of a snowball that keeps building and building and people want to stick up for what they believe is right. But it is harder these days to influence other people to move in the direction that they’re uncomfortable with. Which realistically, what would probably be best for most of us, is if we could open our ears up a little bit and talk less and listen more.
The full episode on this topic of instant access to bad news can be listened to here.
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Derek is joined in this Instant Access to Bad News and What to Do About It segment by KazSource founder and podcast host, Eric Kasimov. Connect with Eric