Last week I blogged about the idea that the internet might be changing how we feel as well as how our brains work. I asked whether we might be the most medicated generation precisely because we are the ‘victims’ of our latest technology. Researchers are becoming aware of a higher level of stress and anxiety in our society due to too little ‘down time.’
My research project has supported and even furthered this concept: We are being driven to distraction by our technology. Not only are we unable to read deeply and for sustained periods according to research published by Nicholas Carr (The Shallows, 2010), but we are becoming more anxious in general. According to research findings in Fear of Terrorism (Nellis & Savage, Crime & Delinquency 2012 58: 765):
In this study, we found that perceived risk is associated with fear and that exposure to TV news is associated with perceived risk. Among the variables that were significantly associated with perceived risk in this study, exposure to TV news is the only one amenable to control by policy makers, so if they desire to manipulate the public’s fear, it would be tempting to manipulate news about terrorism.
To paraphrase a further conclusion by Nellis and Savage (p.765), do we want to be buffeted “by the conflicting interests of the media, who, in the United States, make a greater profit when people watch the news, and the government, who have reasons for wanting to maintain fear but also to reduce it?”