By Patricia B. Mirasol

The churn of news on COVID-19 contributes to the general anxiety people already have about the pandemic. To prevent the feeling that we’re “always on,” experts advise limiting news consumption and sharing only verified information.

“‘Push’ services, particularly on ambient mobile devices, have added greatly to the perception of overload, with information being constantly ‘imposed’ without being sought. The ubiquity of mobile devices has added to the always-on syndrome, often associated with information overload,” said Professor David Bawden and Lyn Robinson, Head of Library and Information Science, at City, University of London. Mr. Bawden and Ms. Robinson contributed a chapter titled “Information Overload: An Overview,” to be published in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Political Decision Making (Oxford University Press 2020).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend limiting consumption of all types of news stories—even those on social media—to only a few times a day. Knowing how and where to get treatment if need be will also keep your anxiety at bay. So does checking in with others and connecting with your community to help put things into perspective. 

Not everything is useful and not everything is necessary to know. Worse, not everything is accurate. There has been a global increase in the spread of misinformation over the years and this added noise has only contributed to COVID-19 information overload. This is worrisome because people who follow conspiracy beliefs about the virus are less likely to adhere to public health guidance on social distancing. These kinds of myths can also fuel racism and xenophobia and potentially harm communities of Asian descent.

Limiting the dissemination of misinformation is a shared responsibility. Before passing on information, a Cigna whitepaper advises running through the “SHARE” checklist:

• Source Ensure the information comes from an established health or government source.

Headline Headlines can be misleading; read the full text.

Analyze Check the facts. If something sounds unbelievable, it probably is. Use online independent fact-checking services when in doubt.

Retouched Consider whether the image or video looks as though it has been edited, or show an unrelated place or event.

• Error Look out for bad grammar and spelling; official sources will have gone through an editing process.