Bad news addiction or news avoidance behavior?

Stating that the phenomenon of 'bad news addiction', which is used for continuing to read bad news on social media, has come to the fore especially during the coronavirus pandemic, experts underlined the need to be aware of dangers as a requirement of the survival mechanism on the basis of this behavior. Noting that in some, contrary to this situation, news avoidance behavior occurs, Assoc. Prof. Gül Esra Atalay said that both situations are obstacles to the right to receive accurate information and that it is absolutely necessary to fight.

Üsküdar University Faculty of Communication Department of Journalism Instructor Assoc. Prof. Gül Esra Atalay made her remarks on bad news addiction.

“Bad news addiction” came to the fore during the pandemic process

Noting that the concept of bad news addiction is used to "continue reading bad news on social media", Assoc. Prof. Gül Esra Atalay said that this concept came to the fore especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Stating that bad news addiction is not actually a new phenomenon, Assoc. Prof. Gül Esra Atalay said, "There is a well-known saying in journalism: 'If there is blood, it makes the headlines.' This phrase is used to explain that news that includes scary, bad and dangerous topics always attract attention. The concept of 'doom scrolling', which started to be used as 'bad news addiction', is actually related to the same phenomenon.”.

Continuous bad news can increase worry and anxiety…

Emphasizing that our need to be aware of dangers in advance, as a necessity of our survival mechanism, especially in periods of anxiety, fear and panic, Assoc. Prof. Gül Esra Atalay said, “Therefore, we use social media to get as much information as we can about the issues that cause anxiety, fear or panic and to prepare ourselves. This behavior has two possible consequences: By reading the bad news, we can rejoice that we and our loved ones are well and safe, so we can take pleasure in seeing our advantageous position by making a comparison. On the other hand, we can increase our worries and anxiety by constantly reading bad news.”.

Negative news gets a lot of attention because it attracts attention.

Stating that negative news is used in order to attract attention from the point of view of news organizations, Assoc. Prof. Gül Esra Atalay said, “The reason for this is that news organizations are essentially profit-making structures and they prefer to use the news that can attract more attention of the readers, therefore, get more clicks as much as possible. Presenting any news in a sensational, alarming, and frightening way as possible is also used in order to attract the attention of the readers. The reader who is addicted to bad news may specifically seek out such news or may not stop reading when encountering such news.”.

Social media algorithms are also effective

Stating that the most important reason for this phenomenon to become so widespread today, Assoc. Prof. Gül Esra Atalay said, “Algorithms in social media channels to improve the user experience and keep users on the platforms for a longer period of time, imprison us in filter bubbles by constantly revealing similar content that we are interested in and read. Therefore, it is not difficult to predict that algorithms will prefer negative news that no one can ignore, to more positive news. Bad news addiction is fed by this choice of algorithms and affects individuals.”.

Avoidance behavior may also occur

Assoc. Prof. Gül Esra Atalay said that avoidance behavior can be seen in some people unlike bad news addiction. Assoc. Dr. Gül Esra Atalay continued: “Due to bad news addiction, individuals may perceive the world they live in as a worse place than it is, and their anxiety and worries may increase. However, of course, getting addicted to bad news is not the only reaction individuals have in the face of alarming events such as pandemics, terrorism, war, or similar cases. The opposite can also be the case. There is another reaction that is conceptualized as 'news avoidance behavior'. As seen in the Reuters Institute of Journalism Studies' Digital News Report for 2022, readers in many different countries specifically avoid seeing news about negative topics such as war or pandemics. This avoidance behavior is increasing as trust in news organizations decreases. This is another way of dealing with fear and anxiety: When there are negative developments in the world or around us, we close our eyes and go into our shells…”.

Both situations need to be dealt with

Emphasizing that both bad news addiction and news avoidance are not ways of learning about what is happening in the world we live in, gaining information and establishing a healthy relationship with the news that serve to organize our lives in the light of this information, Assoc. Prof. Gül Esra Atalay said, “Thus, they constitute an obstacle to our right to receive accurate information. In that way, it is necessary to deal with these situations.”

It's important to be aware of bad news addiction

Referring to what needs to be done while fighting this struggle, Assoc. Prof. Gül Esra Atalay said, “If we think that we have become addicted to bad news and that we cannot stop ourselves from reading negative news on social media, it is very important to even realize this. Acting with this awareness every time we turn to this behavior is an important first step to get rid of this addiction by knowing that this situation will increase our anxiety and that it will not benefit us.”.

Developments can be followed on the websites of news organizations

Assoc. Prof. Gül Esra Atalay concluded her suggestions as follows:

“While consuming news on social media, it must be tried to focus on news on more than one topic related to the agenda instead of clicking on posts about similar topics, if necessary, to access news in digital media from the websites of news organizations instead of social media channels, so that we can reach news on a wider variety of topic. These are other measures we can take. If we cannot stop swiping our screen to read bad news while we are on social media, limiting the time we spend there by determining screen times for social media platforms on our mobile devices, thus breaking away from the chain of disaster news fed by algorithms may allow us to see the world in a more realistic way.”.


Üsküdar News Agency (ÜNA)