There has been quite a bit of trauma flashing through my social media feeds over the past few days. I usually enjoy scrolling through my feed, looking at friends cute pictures of their babies, puppies, and vacations on Facebook and Twitter (sometimes rolling my eyes,… what!? They can’t see). I enjoy the occasional link to a helpful blog post. It’s light, friendly and social. When does it turn from informative to traumatic?
BAM!… POW!… THWACK!…SMASH!
I feel like I’ve been hit by a social media trauma punch.
I no longer have a TV. I don’t watch the news I do listen to the radio at my own discretion. I try to limit the amount of traumatic news I listen to as I find it increases my heart rate and my senses start tingling. I much prefer the vacation post, family pictures, and pet friendly updates littered through my face book. It’s inevitably more calming. Apparently there’s some science to this. Since a few highly publicized traumas in Boston and New York, researchers at the University of California have done some investigating into the effects of media related screen time.
“The results suggest that exposure to graphic media images may be an important mechanism through which the impact of collective trauma is dispersed widely,” Silver says. “Our findings are both relevant and timely as vivid images reach larger audiences than ever before through YouTube, social media and smartphones.” 1
They are not the only ones concerned about social media and trauma exposure. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network Center in the United States has tips for media when covering traumatic events;
- advising the public about safety first
- educating about managing exposure and timing of broadcasts
- interviewing children, getting permission and consider children’s expectations
- helping families help children
More research has been done and the US National Center for PTSD also say that “too much trauma-related television viewing may have a negative impact, especially on children.” It’s something to be aware of for adults and children when it’s harder and harder to censor the information coming into our worlds.
What about those that go in, when everyone else is running out?
In Canada, paramedics have the highest risk of developing PTSD. In 2005 a tragic death of a 15 year old girl in Toronto was broad cast over the news. A Vice author (then 11 years old), clearly recalls the event, remembering the interview showing a paramedic leaving a lasting impact.
“I remember watching the flood of TV broadcasts about her death in the days that followed, but what stuck with me wasn’t the black-and-white photo of the high school student used by every news station. Instead, what’s clear in my mind is a brief, maybe 15-second interview with one of the paramedics who first responded to the call. She was talking about how the experience of trying to take care of the dying young girl was haunting her. And while most of the city was mourning Jane Creba’s tragic death, I was left wondering why the paramedic wasn’t being taken care of too.”4
If you do find yourself having difficulty sleeping, getting repeated thoughts or images of events, increased irritability ask for help. Even those that are trained to help, need help too.
Have you noticed more trauma related news on your social media platforms?
Is this new information? Does it make you concerned?
1. Repeated exposure to traumatic images may be harmful to health http://today.uci.edu/news/2012/09/nr_roxysilver_120904.php
2. NCTSN Tips for Media Covering Traumatic Events http://www.nctsnet.org/resources/audiences/for-the-media/tips-for-covering-events
3. National Center for PTSD http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/trauma/basics/media-coverage-traumatic-events.asp
4. Vice: In Canada Paramedics are the most likely to develop PTSD http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/canadian-paramedics-are-the-most-likely-citizens-to-develop-ptsd