Negative news leads to a negative worldview

We are not optimists because we are only fed pessimism.

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Photo Courtesy of Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Brianna Clark, Opinions Editor

When we check our news applications, tune in to NPR’s Morning Edition or scroll through our daily Twitter feed, we are disproportionately bombarded with bad news. The media heavily focuses on the deadlier side of life—wars, natural catastrophes and oppression—and ignores the positives that are constantly counteracting them. 

We have culturally adopted the mindset that the world is a terrible place, but this pessimism is a lie. Although the stories of war, accidents and injustice should be heard, they should not overshadow our perception of the world. 

NEGATIVE NEWS IS DISTORTED NEWS

Of course, negative news should be reported and heard, but only within a much broader perspective. Take, for example, the Black Lives Matter protests of this year. Around 93% of protests were peaceful—but that is not the image the news portrayed of this movement. The over-representation of riots in the media painted this movement as a violent uproar, leading 42% of Americans to believe that supporters of the protests encourage and incite violence. 

We cannot obscure portions of a story just because the other parts are more eye-catching. It feeds lies to the public about the state of our world and perpetuates the cultural cynicism we consider normal. 

Horrific events are easy to report on because they happen in an instant. An exploding bomb takes seconds to decimate an area. Mass shootings typically begin and end in a matter of minutes. New coronavirus cases are added to a statistic and released in a matter of days to indicate a second wave. It is easy for news outlets to disproportionately cover negative news. 

On the other hand, positive events can take months and years to unfold, oftentimes seeming irrelevant by the time they occur in the face of the disasters happening worldwide. We hear about the California wildfires and acres of land turned to ash, but we never hear the stories, years later, of regrowth. The news focuses so heavily on death that we barely notice that the average life expectancy has increased. 

This image of reality the news has curated is a grave misrepresentation. The more negative news is covered, the more people fear catastrophic events to be a personal threat to their daily lives. It is more common for citizens to fear plane crashes and terrorist attacks than car accidents, even though car accidents kill far more each year than the other two combined, simply because the news reports more heavily on those topics. We are led to believe these events have more of an impact on our lives than they actually do. 

OUR MENTAL OUTLOOK IS AT STAKE

Scrolling through the news is more an act of obligation to learn about current events than it is to brighten our day because in most cases the news accomplishes the opposite. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, 53% of adults reported feeling depressed and anxious when considering current events. Our minds are being trained to believe the world is worse than it actually is. 

In this era of constant information, we battle the need to stay informed with the need to stay sane. When it comes to negative news, Fast Company claims being mindful of our news consumption is the key. Many people place a large amount of emotional stock in learning about disastrous current events. Instead, the emphasis should lie in our intellectual relationship with the news. We should stay aware of these events, but be mindful of how these events may—or, most likely, may not—relate to our immediate life. 

INCORPORATE POSITIVE NEWS

There is always another side to a story that the news rarely showcases—the good that comes from the bad. When positive news is broadcasted, viewers feel more unified with their community, are motivated to help and see the world through a brighter lens. Starting the day with positive news instead of negative news leads to lighter moods and improved behavior. 

Positive news does not ignore negative events, but rather structures them to show what is being done to repair these tragedies and how an individual can help. These kinds of messages unravel the “learned helplessness” that negative news establishes in viewers and replaces the tragic ending of our world’s narrative with a hopeful encouragement.

THE FULL STORY

The news often only shows half of a story, leaving us with half of the possible emotions we could glean from it. We must begin to unearth the other half of the story to show that good prevails not despite, but in direct response to bad. There is always hope to be found on the other side of a sad story. 

The world is terrible and the world is wonderful. Let us not forget to see the latter. 

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