Reading the news is a practice that I know is not particularly good for my mental health. I like to be informed about what’s happening in the world, but I often end up shaking my head and wondering if what I’m reading is really news (and if the whole world is really beyond hope).
What makes something newsworthy?
It’s an interesting question in our globalized world. Back long ago when I did freelance work for a small newspaper on the West Coast, a newsworthy story was a story that impacted the community.
This probably hasn’t changed too much when it comes to print media. The problem is, I mostly read the news on my phone.
My phone suggests news stories that some algorithm has decided should be of interested to me, enticing me to get sucked down various rabbit holes of war, murder, sexual assault scandals, and Trump.
Just reading the various headlines is usually enough to make me want to crawl under my bed and give up on the human race entirely.
In elementary school, we teach kids that name calling and violence aren’t acceptable ways to solve problems. We expect kids to share their resources with other students in their class and
often with other classes in the school.
In short, we expect more from elementary school kids than we do from world leaders.
And, for the most part, we get what we expect. Both from elementary school kids and from world leaders.
This is highlighted on the news feeds I get each and every day. If I were an alien learning about humanity from my news feeds, I would think that our day to day lives were filled with violence, treachery and bloodshed.
But, they're not.
This is the realization that keeps me from excavating my basement into a bomb shelter and hiding away from the insane world that is portrayed on my newsfeed.
I wonder if there’s even an inverse relationship where those of us who lead the most privileged lives read the most horrible news. While those who are living through terrible war, suffering famine, instability and oppression probably don’t have the time or resources to follow a lot of news feeds.
It’s good to be informed about the events that are going on around the world and to play a role in speaking up for equality and human rights.
It’s great to do research about what you can do to support building a fairer and more sustainable world for everyone.
But, in our world of readily available information (and misinformation) at all hours of all days in all times, it’s easy to lose yourself or to lose hope in the piles of tragedies being beamed to your newsfeed.
There is a lot of suffering in the world.
There is also a lot of joy in the world.
Unfortunately, we are hardwired to focus on the negative (our brains think it keeps us safe, but since heart disease and cancer are responsible for more than half of all the deaths in the world, I’m not sure that thinking negatively is saving us from much of anything), and our news networks know that the negative sells because our brains naturally grab on to it. So, we have to actively work to find and notice the good that is happening in the world.
There IS good that is happening in the world. There are acts of kindness, caring and
compassion happening all the time all over the world.
Think of five people you know who can make you smile. Five people that you’d like to sit on your porch and drink tea with. Those people aren’t perfect, but they’re good people, people who care about others and about the world.
If we can all think of five people (I can think of more), then that’s some reassurance that despite what we see on the news, there’s a lot of people out there interested in doing more good than harm.
Humans are messy, complicated, impulsive animals, but we aren’t all bad. It might be time to take a break from the news and instead focus on the little moments of kindness that happen everyday. Maybe if we each nurture a few seeds of compassion and pay them forward we can grow our own gardens of good news to share.