How often do you view social media sites? Two, three, five times a day? Do you have nightmares after viewing clips of school shootings or movie theatre bombings? Do you feel chronically uneasy, irritable, hyper-vigilant after watching unfettered displays of violence?
If this is the case, you might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Yes, viewing violent news events on social media can cause PTSD. In a recent study conducted by Dr. Ramsden, a researcher at the University of Bradford in the UK, 189 individuals completed questionnaires regarding personality and violent news events such as 9/11 and suicide bombings. They also participated in clinical assessments concerning PTSD and vicarious traumatization, a term typically assigned to those who repeatedly witness trauma such as therapists, rescue workers, crisis clinicians, police officers, and nurses.
Out of the 189 participants, nearly one quarter of them scored high on clinical assessments of PTSD, showing that they were significantly affected by watching violent news events on social media. The more individuals who viewed violent events, the greater they were affected. Extroverts were also found to be at greater risk for developing PTSD.
Now that I’ve added a layer of worry to your day, (sorry), how do we protect ourselves from unrestrained acts of violence? Though, in June of this year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting free speech on social media and the Internet, we, as viewers, possess a similar freedom of choice, namely the freedom to make choices that protect our emotional well being. We can choose to walk away from our computers, iPhones, iPads, e-readers, and tablets. The challenge I pose to you is this: Can you shift your eyes from the screen, even for a day, and onto something else like a walk in the woods, a fantasy novel, or a crossword puzzle?