If What We Watch Reflects Who We Are, We Don't Look So Good
I am a big fan of “Good News.” In a world with so much chaos, I like to be reminded that every day people are out there doing amazing, funny, and courageous things in spite of the challenges we all face.
But most headlines don't reflect this reality.
Looking through the lens of major news outlets, it often appears that the world is at the edge of oblivion; that we are surrounded by threats and people who are willing to kill, steal, lie, cheat... anything to get by. This makes it all too easy to believe that driving a nice car is more important than helping someone in need, and that we are incapable of solving any of the problems we face – or even handling our disagreements – with civility, ingenuity, and compassion.
It's enough to make many people lose faith in humanity, and hope for the future. Why do these stories grab our attention?
However disturbing it is to see, in my former life as news producer I learned that bad news sells. And I have to acknowledge that there is probably a good reason that we all turn our necks and stare when someone has been hurt, or is grieving, or has misbehaved. It's probably linked to our survival as a species- to identify and assess anything that we think might threaten our security. We could choose to look away, or close our eyes, and in fact many people do. But when we do look away, somewhere deep within the primordial part of ourselves lies the uneasy feeling that bad news bears information critical to our well-being, and that by facing it we face our deepest fears.
So, we won't likely stop watching and reading bad news. But there is hope for our collective evolution in our response to disturbing news.
Should we “run away” and seek emotional escape in trivial information (as in celebrity gossip)? Should we take it all in and feel depressed and cynical about the state of the world? Should we point fingers and cast uninformed judgements about people and cultures that are unfamiliar? We’ve been doing this for a long time, and it doesn’t appear to be doing us any good. In fact, by reacting this way we are making things worse.
What would happen if we tried changing the story?
What I mean is, what if we see disturbing news as a call to action to bring love, compassion, and support – not judgement – to the people affected by it? If there has been a disaster somewhere, shouldn’t we seek out and support the organizations who are helping the victims? If diseases threaten, let’s find and help the organizations seeking a cure. If we learn that we are destabilizing our natural environment, let’s figure out which groups are working on the solutions that will bring us in harmony with it and lend them our time, our voice, or financial support. If this process were as automatic as breathing, imagine how quickly we could solve the problems that confront us. Even better, imagine how good it would feel to be a part of it.
For my part, GoodSpeaks is an attempt to connect stories throughout the internet about the problems we face to stories from organizations seeking solutions. I think – in fact I am absolutely sure – I am not alone in wanting what I see and read to be less cynical, more hopeful, informative, actionable, more of what we are meant to be. I hope you will join me by supporting GoodSpeaks in finding ways to make this change happen.
And as always, thanks for your time :)
Project Lead, GoodSpeaks
If you feel like diving deeper into the subject of the effect of violent and disturbing images/news on you and society at large, check out this great video trailer for the Mean World Syndrome by the Media Education Foundation.