If all news was good news would we still read the news?
Russian news site City Reporter only reported good news to its readers for an entire day, and lost two thirds of its normal readership.
On some of my down days, I’ve sometimes contemplated starting a website or newspaper that reported only the positive. The idea being that there are just as many if not more positive things happening every day on the planet.
It’s just that we never hear about them. We only hear about the awful stuff in an ongoing and never-ending misery-loop.
Then we wander through our everyday under the impression that the world is horrible, everything is stuffed and everyone we meet is either trying to harm or trick us.
Most people though, are inherently good. It’s just that, as this Russian website found out, nobody cares.
Meaning that I haven’t started the Wonderful Weekly or the Sunshine Sunday for the same reason that nobody else has:
It’s a stupid idea.
There are psychology studies galore which explain why we love to read and watch negative news. Apparently negative events are more memorable and emotionally impactful than positive ones.
There’s evidence of this not just in the news. Movies are packed with conflict, violence and horror, often only with a smile peaking through at the very start or end, and sometimes in the middle if someone’s lucky enough to get laid.
Think about yourself for a moment. It’s not hard, you do it all the time. So you might get ten positive comments for every one negative piece of feedback, but which one do you remember? That’s right, the negative one.
Then there’s the internet, and thanks to the trolls I often get five hundred negative comments, and a link to a website that promises to improve my erection, and no positivity. So that’s 501 to zero, and I ignore them all apart from the gif of the monkey drinking it’s own wee because as well as the negative, we’re also obsessed with the freaky.
Anyway, there are also cats on the internet. It’s one cat to every three million negative comments however, so it’s still well-weighted to the nasty.
Back to the bad news. I’d argue that it’s important, in order to inspire outrage and bring about social change. Look at what’s happening in the USA in relation to institutional racism right now.
If you’re told everything is peachy awesome, you go about your day and don’t rock any boats, even if you’re a boatbuilder.
If you are incensed by injustice though, just maybe you’ll do something about it.
Too much of a bad thing, however, leaves you feeling hopeless and apathetic. A parade of ongoing misery just leaves you feeling miserable.
Other reasons we care more about the bad news is that it’s more spectacular, horrific and just a whole lot more interesting. A thing is nowhere near as interesting as that thing on fire. Especially if that thing is a fireworks factory.
Negative news also has plenty to teach us. By examining the mistakes of others, perhaps we’ll learn what not to do, and what’s not acceptable.
What the news often lacks is context. All the horror, heartache and unhappiness is fine, but we’re seldom given any frame of reference into why this or that morsel of mayhem is useful.
How it’s helpful to our personal development; where it sits in the broader context of our lives; what we might do to ensure that it doesn’t happen to us, or what we might do as a society to ensure it’s unlikely to happen to anyone ever again.
So forget the good news, because nobody cares.
Maybe the next experiment, however, is to report the bad news with a touch more wisdom.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian
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