Foss Commentary: Tips for handling media consumpti...

Foss Commentary: Tips for handling media consumption in a pandemic

In this crazy time, we are experiencing a saturation of media messages. While it is wonderful to have so many different choices, it can also become too much. How can we navigate our media landscape during the pandemic, striking a balance between becoming informed and feeling overwhelmed?

• Look beyond your usual sources of information, seeking out multiple perspectives. Especially right now, it can be useful to examine local, national, and international stories across platforms. Check websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) frequently for accurate, updated information. Explore personal blogs, podcasts, and other formats to get a more diverse picture of what is going on.

• Rely on social media platforms primarily for community and amusement, not facts.

• Use older media platforms to connect with isolated friends and family. Call older relatives for a chat or write letters to kids that you know.

• Indulge in some non-outbreak/non-class guilty-pleasure consumption. Binge-watch a series, dust off the book on your nightstand or find a new recipe to try. We need narratives that don’t mention social distancing or a disease’s R0 or R-naught, (which refers to the average number of people a contagious person infects).

• Go media-free for a few hours. Get outside, brush out the dog, sweep the garage, or do whatever activity that takes you away from the bombardment of messages. It is okay if you don’t see the latest number of cases posted to the Johns Hopkins interactive map or if you miss an official press conference. The information will still be there later.

Outbreaks are always times of uncertainty, with more questions than answers. We can’t truly predict what will happen, but we can control our message intake and manage our limits during this crisis. It is fortunate that we are social distancing in the digital era, where we can move classes online and easily stay in touch.

Dr. Katie Foss is a professor of Media Studies in the MTSU School of Journalism and Strategic Media. She is author of the forthcoming book, “Constructing the Outbreak: Epidemics in Media and Collective Memory,” that will be published later this year from University of Massachusetts Press. Reach her at