A new Newsy/Ipsos poll finds 72% of Americans agree it's overwhelming to try to keep up with COVID-19 news, with half saying they're seeking out more non-virus-related news.
"It becomes a problem when we get stuck thinking about the situation," says Dr. Lynn Bufka, clinical psychologist and senior director of practice, research and policy at the American Psychological Association. "We potentially are only thinking about bad outcomes, how horrible it could be if this happened. We're not able to think about potential solutions, potential ways to address the possible threat. Or we've done those things, but we still are thinking about all the possible bad outcomes."
That lack of potential solutions may be overwhelming enough to push people to seek out false and potentially harmful information about the virus, according to Lisa Fazio, assistant professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University.
"Misinformation can give you an easy story, whereas the science can’t. And that’s one reason that misinformation is kind of spreading so rapidly and easily in this situation. The situation itself is complicated, but misinformation can be really simple and can fall into all the biases that people have for the things they want to believe."
The proliferation of misinformation has also made it difficult for fact-checkers to cut through the noise and deliver accurate information about the virus, according to PolitiFact staff writer Daniel Funke.
"I think it’s become harder to both keep up with the amount of misinformation we’re seeing on a fact-checker's side, but also to have confidence that we are reaching everyone that we need to, and correcting or at least changing their mind about a false piece of content."
To help alleviate this overwhelming feeling, experts told Newsy it may be worth changing where you get your coronavirus information, like from social media to more authoritative sources.
"The platforms are taking the initiative and being more aggressive generally in how they approach the coronavirus crisis," said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University's Stern Center for Business and Human Rights and author of several studies on disinformation. "I think there's a lot of evidence of a lot of goodwill and a lot of energy being invested here, but they can't get everything."