Happiness Isn’t Newsworthy: A Response to Too Much Information

There are so many depressing news items which we should read because they’re important. But I feel that the above examples just don’t come into this category. News shouldn’t be about shocking people and making them feel miserable about freak accidents, and I know that if something like this happened to one of my own family, I wouldn’t want it sensationalized all over the world.

– From Too Much Information via LindaHuber19.

The post I’m responding to today is pretty short. I recommend checking it out before you continue on with this one.

One of the biggest reasons why I have largely stopped consuming the news is due to how much it relies on fear and anger to attract readers. Sensationalistic stories win out over anything else that’s going on, and this imbalanced perspective exaggerates some dangers while completely ignoring much more serious ones.

Photo by Juanedc from Zaragoza, España.

Photo by Juanedc from Zaragoza, España.

I agree with Linda. This isn’t what the news should cover.

The problem is that it’s extremely difficult to find news sources that avoid fear-mongering because those tactics are so effective at capturing people’s attention. I’m not pointing fingers at any one political ideology here. Everyone does it.

So how do we respond to it? Opting out of keeping up with current events won’t work for everyone. A lot of people genuinely enjoy discussing what’s been happening around the world.

I have noticed that small, local newspapers, blogs, and radio/TV stations are more willing to highlight positive stories from their communities.  Many years ago my brother and sister-in-law were both interviewed about their experiences as short-term volunteers in other countries. Their trips were happy, memorable occasions that made for uplifting news.

The dosage matter as well. There is a difference between skimming a blog and spending hours a day watching depressing or misleading stories. The limit for every person will vary, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with finding a balance between staying informed and avoiding truthy tales of horror.

My final piece of advice is simple: look for hope. Longterm readers know what a big fan I am of Cathryn Wellner’s blog. It’s one of the major reasons why I’m not quite as strict about avoiding the news as I was a few years ago.

Readers, what do you think?


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4 Responses to Happiness Isn’t Newsworthy: A Response to Too Much Information

  1. Linda Huber

    Thank you for your response. I agree absolutely – find a balance, and
    look for hope. We can all be in charge of finding our own balance, and
    looking for hope puts emphasis on the positive aspects of a story, no
    matter how ‘dark’ it is.

  2. Cathryn Wellner

    I suspect humans have always been fascinated by the dark side. Traditional lore from around the world is rife with murder, mystery and mayhem. Gladiators and bull fighters never seemed to lack audiences. But you both beautifully articulate the unease so many of us feel at being bombarded with random horrors as if they accurately represented the larger picture of life. I have spent decades railing at injustices. Three years ago I began an experiment to see if I could learn from Scheherazade’s experience.

    She volunteered to marry a king who was avoiding another betrayal by marrying a new virgin every day and then killing her the next day, before she could prove untrue to him. Scheherazade’s tactic was simple. She would begin a story each night, stop at an exciting moment, and claim she was too tired to finish it. The king just had to know what happened so would let her live another day. It took 1001 stories, but she finally changed his heart.

    1001 reasons for hope later, I have come to believe we really do change our lives through what we choose to focus on. Now when I find myself sliding toward the world’s-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket cliff, I remember the Indian village that plants 111 trees when a girl child is born, the African farmers planting “fertilizer trees”, the man who single-handedly carved a road through the mountains to save lives, the young man with Down syndrome who owns a restaurant and greets customers with hugs, the ex-skinhead who works for peace. And on it goes.

    Our minds are astonishingly powerful. I believe we can use them to transform ourselves first, the world around us next. I still pay attention to the news, but now I am more interested in those who are doing something about it.

    Thanks, Lydia. Your support means the world to me.

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