Under the Information Ocean

The impact of news coverage about the Ukraine conflict is negative in more than one way.

Alex Hindenlang, DN Design; Freepik, Vectors Provided
Alex Hindenlang, DN Design; Freepik, Vectors Provided

Sophie Nulph is a senior magazine journalism major and writes “Open-Minded” for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. 

I woke up to the news around 6:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, as Russian troops began to invade Ukrainian territory unwarranted. Numbness ran through my body at the thought of conflict, and after talking with a friend for an hour about the possibilities, I started my day confused and uncertain. The reports raced through my mind on the 3-minute drive to Starbucks as I thought back to my brother and friends who have served. I stopped at the television to watch the news every time I got up at work — my eyes glued to the screen for information. 

Then the terror set in. 

Are the reports accurate? Are we being fed propaganda by the Russian government? What kind of international peacekeepers are stepping in? Was President Valadmir Putin’s threat directed at the United States?

For the rest of the day, my body physically shook — not at the fear of the United States involvement, but for the heartbreak I felt for Ukrainian citizens. My soul became stuck in pain as I was consumed in watching the evacuations, patriotism and safe family members longing to hear from loved ones on every TikTok that appeared on my For You page.

And then, I quickly realized without social media, I’d be further in the dark. 

After a week consumed in the news, it’s safe to say I felt guilty. If I had the opportunity, I would drop everything to right the wrongs that are happening every minute in Ukraine. The reality is, I don’t have enough funds to help financially, I am incapable of helping physically, and the burnout from an overwhelming amount of bad news was begging me to avoid the news for a few days. But how can I justify avoiding a nightmare others are living?

For the last month, my eyes, ears, head and heart have been glued to my favorite news sources, without taking a break. As a journalist, I have written and read and met with professionals on how to deal with the burnout, yet here it is. Social media is a double-edged sword; it tempts you with the information you know will weigh down your soul. 

During conflicts like Russia’s invasion, social media is crucial to close the distance between countries, keep the world informed and insure factual coverage of any and all events that may unfold as time passes. It helps emphasize the need for support, show the true implications of conflict on foreign soil and warn users of what to expect next. However, the gruesome consequences of this open communication also leads to highlighting the casualties with more detail than what has ever been sharable. 

It’s hard for anyone to watch the last moments of 13 Ukrainian soldiers defending Snake Island — a base in the Black Sea bombed by Russian warships. It is even more difficult finding out the soldiers you mourned aren’t dead; the public was simply misinformed. Our need for social media is all-consuming, but can be detrimental without proper warnings or education regarding how to handle such information. 

As distraught and terrified as I was when the news breaks each day, I must continue to remind myself that no matter where my feet are on this Earth, I am being affected by what is happening — as is anyone who cares about humanity. Sometimes the best thing we can do is simply offer our best moral support. 

Taking a break from social media isn’t selfish, and prioritizing your mental health when consumed by negative news is important if we are to continue supporting the cause in different ways. The Russian invasion amplifies the need for international news coverage, and freedom of press is a privilege and power held by few. Russian citizens do not have the outlets of education offered to Ameficans, but too much social media coverage and misinformation can cause outright panic. World War III rumors continue to spiral as Russian drops bombs closer to Poland, striking fear into citizens internationally. 

These rumors exemplify the complex relationships the public maintains with social media. Russia’s citizens don’t have the ability to protest or speak out about their government’s unjust war. Most Russian media are not independent from Putin’s government, which is also cracking down on dissent from its citizens in the form of a newly-signed law that could see Russians face 15 years in prison for speaking out on the war, according to NPR.

As Americans, we don’t officially have personal stakes in the conflict, yet our access to social media gives us more of a platform to express dissent than the people immediately involved in the war. This consequently leads to stress and fear over situations we should be supporting and advocating for. 

All our lives, we’ve been instilled with the values of free speech that our Constitution guarantees, and that can manifest as a compulsion to comment on everything — to not only have a take about something, but to have the right take about everything. That need to be on top of the conversation and to be on the right side of the conversation is what social media apps like Twitter sell themselves on. “What’s happening” isn’t just Twitter’s marketing, it’s exactly what you get.

The awful truth is, our collective stress is nothing compared to the suffering of Ukraine’s citizens, who have shown the world the incredible depth of their bravery over the last month. While the true death toll in Ukraine is unclear, some estimates from the Office of United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights place the civilian death toll at 691, though the real number is likely higher. Ours is an inconsequential problem compared to the hell being visited on Ukraine, but it’s important to remember that suffering is relative and not worth comparing.

That’s why stepping back can be so necessary at a time when everything feels like too much. The magnifying glass that social media holds over the issue of the day does as much to spotlight issues as to cook its users alive like ants on a driveway. While it’s our responsibility to be informed, participating members of our global community, we don’t need to drown ourselves in our echo chambers with every new development.

I stand with Ukraine, and my heart breaks for the unnecessary bloodshed brought on by a close-minded totalitarian politician. We must all stand in solidarity, even when it’s hard to look.

Contact Sophie Nulph with comments at smnulph@bsu.edu or on Twitter @nulphsophie.


More from The Daily

This Week's Digital Issue

Loading Recent Classifieds...