Bad news sells. Despite calls for news to be more focused on positive events, our “need to know” pulls us toward information that, if not weighty, is downright nasty.
This thirst for the worst explains why the media keep dishing up disasters and dilemmas. If we decided en masse to give up on gloomy news, they’d try something else – anything to capture our attention.
That’s why there are so few sites that specialize in happy news items. Not only do we find ourselves drawn to knowing what’s wrong, we don’t take exclusively happy newscasts seriously.
Why is that? Is it simply a matter of habit, based on conditioning? Would we ever be satisfied only seeing newsflashes about how good everything is? Or, is there something else driving us to want to know the worst?
One theory that might explain our morbid fascination for tragedy and trouble is that we inherently like to know how bad circumstances are as a kind of protective action. If there’s a man-eating lion prowling around your tribal village it could be handy to know. Likewise, if interest rates start sharply rising you better prepare yourself for the changing situation before your loan goes ballistic.
Of course, knowing what is relevant can be useful. But getting too much doom and gloom is overwhelming. Taking control therefore of the flow of news coming at us makes sense to allow us to digest what is relevant and ditch the rest.
For one person that might mean avoiding almost all news reports. While, for another, they need to balance out the nightly lamentations with something much more upbeat after.
The trick is to use the news to suit you. Make sure it is put into perspective with positive information and, at all times, take it with more than a granule or two of salt.
After all, what the camera reveals can be very one-eyed and all reports have a certain degree of subjectivity to them. On top of that is the distorting effect of scale. Global issues are not something we can personally fix as individuals, let alone address by lunchtime. Big problems need mighty responses from many people working together. So, when major crisis are thrown up before you, keep it in perspective. There’s no point blaming yourself for wars, political problems, and social injustice when it’s enough just getting dinner fixed and mopping up where the cat has been sick.
Perhaps the best way to use the news is to understand that it too is a business and teams of people produce it to earn revenue, ratings, and good reviews.
Gather from it what you will and always think through issues, deciding for your self what the real concerns are versus what journalists say. Exercise your own judgment of what is and isn’t, and apply your ultimate ability: to click and switch as you see fit.
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