Why Do We React To Negative News?

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What draws us to doom and gloom stories? 

Turn on your PC/Tablet/Smartphone, switch on the TV or pick up today’s paper and you will be bombarded with a whole lotta negative news, why? And how do you feel when you read this ‘news’? Helpless? Angry? Anxious? Does it make you want to go and post or tweet expressing your unhappiness or venting your anger at someone or something? Why is there so much negative news in the first place? Is the world a terrible place to live in? What makes us react to negative ‘news’?

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One reason for our ‘news’ being so horrible could be due to ‘negativity bias’, our danger receptors are stimulated by the endless accounts of violence and injustice that we read or even just images we see, images of trophy hunters holding dead wild animals or of starving and  emaciated dogs, videos of thuggery that provoke us to proclaim that the world is messed up, either that or we call for violent retribution perhaps in part driven by our innate fight or flight response/reaction. These harrowing tales and heart breaking images play with our anxiety making us feel insecure and at threat, even though in most cases, we are just fine.

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Some suggest we react to negative news because we are naive I believe there is some validity to that claim, I know when I was younger and didn’t really watch the news, I simply had no idea that large parts of the globe were afflicted by economic hardship and instability and that leads me to my next point, for me personally, there is an element of guilt and empathy and I think that is the case for many of us. Take for example the image of young Alylan Kurdi that went viral last summer, I’m not going to post any images but if you don’t know about him, read the story here. Aylans’ story is a tragic one, it highlights the plight of refugees and the perils they face in seeking safety, most of us have a conscience and the feeling of shared empathy and sadness is undeniable, what’s even worse is the feeling that you can’t do anything to change or better the situation.

So Should We Just Stop Paying Attention To The News?

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I haven’t really watched terrestrial television since  the early 00’s but whether you get your ‘news’ from TV or on the internet, if it’s causing anxiety then maybe you should think about cutting down your intake, maybe it’s not so much the news but rather the polarising tweets and statuses that flood your screen, the blind rage and reactionary counter rage, the unfettered thoughtless words that flash across your newsfeed, if you’re getting that fight and flight sensation in your stomach then you really need to get yourself away from the situation. You can always come back later when you have some clarity and can decide on a course of action. Then you can ask yourself if you’re capable of contributing in any kind of positive way, if so, go for it, acts of kindness are good for the soul, if not, move on because no good will come from harming yourself, it won’t help the people you are upset for and it won’t help you either.

So What Can I Do?

Personally I would find it hard to not read news online, my advice is steer clear of fear mongers, watch out for words and phrases that sensationalise and dehumanise, bad things happen, it’s a sad fact of life, it’s good to to take lawful positive action where you can but it’s pointless getting involved in debates online, write a blog,  sign a petition, write a letter of solidarity to someone, check out sites like Positive News and look after your wellbeing and the wellbeing of others, it’s not just a wishy washy concept, you do need to stay healthy and positive so stay healthy and don’t let all that bad news drag you down.

 

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