Stressed waiting for election results? Combat election stress disorder and spot misinformation with tech tools

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Election Day is finally here and most of us are either stressing out about it – or trying not to. 

In a year we’ve dealt with banner blows to just about every aspect of our wellbeing, this is the week of peak anxiety, according to experts. There’s even a term for it – “election stress disorder.” 

A recent report by the American Psychological Association shows more than two-thirds – nearly 70% – of American adults say the 2020 U.S. presidential election is a significant source of stress in their lives. The survey shows that anxiety is even worse for people of color. 

“It’s a lot of fearfulness, a number of mixed emotions – people with fear and hypervigilance – constantly searching the news and being on whatever social media outlet you have, and getting these messages,” Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Dr. Robert Bright said in a recent interview. “I was watching the television this morning, and every commercial has this catastrophic message, ‘If you vote for this guy or that guy, horrific, catastrophic things are going to happen.’ And that constant message creates a sense of anxiety and fear, and diffusely feeling overwhelmed in ourselves,” he added. 

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We can’t stop our crazy uncle or our high school Facebook “friends” from sharing misleading memes or even spreading downright dangerous misinformation. But we can take back some semblance of control. Here are four tips loaded with helpful tech tools to help you combat fake news and not stress out (too much) about the election. 

1. Mute it all

A whole lot of people are turning-off and tuning-out. Some took the day off of work to head outside and stay far away from all things electronic. My 19-year-old daughter deleted the top social media apps off of her phone for the week, while my husband turned off all social media and news outlet notifications. Others are simply drowning distractions by hitting the “mute” button on every social media outlet and for all notifications in the settings on their devices. Since that can take a bit of time, other people opt for apps like Freedom, Dewo, FocusMe, and LeechBlock. Each of these work in similar ways – letting you turn off distractions for a specific amount of time, or automatically creating “do not disturb” notices across your devices. 

2.  Spot fake news

I’ve had a ton of conversations on my personal Facebook feed recently where people are genuinely confused about which news outlet to trust. I – and many of my colleagues – have offered several fact-checking and news bias-rating sites, including the Associated Press AP Fact Check, FactCheck.org, Politifact, and AdFontesMedia. USA Today even has its own fact-checking pages and election fact-checking site

Chris Krebs, the Director of the Cyberseucirty and Infrastructure Security Agency gives a DHS briefing on election security on September 17th, 2020.
Chris Krebs, the Director of the Cyberseucirty and Infrastructure Security Agency gives a DHS briefing on election security on September 17th, 2020.

Other great go-to’s here include the U.S. Cybersecurity Agency’s rumor control site, web browser plug-in NewsGuard, which rates more than 4,000 news websites based on their records of publishing accurate information, and Ground News, which shows you how many top outlets have covered a story at a glance. (Spoiler, if no major news organizations have covered it, there’s a good chance it’s false.)

Videos are harder, but if you’re a bit more tech-savvy, install the browser plug-in InVID on Firefox and Chrome. When you’re watching a video, you can click on the tool, then click on the “Keyframes” button and paste in a video link and click “Submit.” InVid pulls up important frames of the video for you to reverse image search to see if they are legitimate or fake.

3. Welcome distractions

Give your brain a break with feel-good videos like animal odd couples from the Dodo including an inseparable ferret and dog duo, or this especially sweet cat and dog combo

Explore.org’s YouTube channel is also absolutely magical. It takes you front and center to remote places around the globe via live feed. From perching next to an owl’s nest in Montana to hunkering down next to an elephant-filled wildlife watering hole in Kenya, the awe and wonder are real. If you want to share the moment with others, click on the “Pop Comments” button and text chat to your heart’s content.

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HearMe is a free app that connects via text with an empathetic ear.
HearMe is a free app that connects via text with an empathetic ear.

4. Talk to someone

Experts recommend talking with a professional, which is easier than ever these days thanks to “teletherapy.” 

Online therapy sites such as BetterHealth, Doctor on Demand, Wellnite, Larkr, Real, ReGain, AbleTo and MDLive are affordable, often take insurance, and easy to schedule appointments on. 

Apps HearMe, Wisdo, and Lyf (iOS and Android) hook you up with a person, or group of people, ready to lend a sympathetic ear and help you talk things through without waiting for an appointment. HearMe lets you chat via anonymous text with a stranger within a minute or two of logging in. Lyf is similar but lets you connect with – and follow – hundreds of other people using the app. Wisdo hooks you up with support groups, and can also connect you with a trained coach for one-on-one private sessions or moderated discussions with Wisdo mentors.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech contributor. Email her at jj@techish.com. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferJolly.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election stress disorder: Tech tools and tips to help spot fake news





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