2016. The Year to Manage Negative News.

There is No Grey in Black

Photo Coutesy of Yannig Van de Wouver CC

Photo Coutesy of Yannig Van de Wouver CC

No bones about it, 2015 was a year chock full of headlines and sound bites soaked in cruelty and barbarism. Some so unspeakable and horrific, discussions are rare and often muted. If you followed the news in 2015, this world of ours is becoming evermore unkind and gloomy. Mainstream media continues its duty-bound charge by providing us with stories draped in catastrophe and human suffering.

But is the tone and narrative of news any different from past years?

Granted, 2015 increased its volume of terrorist atrocities but is news any more negative year over year? Is the media taking an active role in sanctioning mental health issues?

In the Associated Press (AP) – Times Square Alliance survey to Americans, it is of no surprise that so many surveyed are having a hard time finding the good in the world.

57% feel the year as a whole is worse than last year. Up from 38% from 2014.

When looking to their own lives on a personal level, 29 % believe 2015 was better for them than 2014, while 21 % feel it was worse, compared with 15 % in 2014.

Of those polled, 68% said mass shootings were most important. Then the Paris terror attacks at 64% and finally, ISIL, ISIS activities at 63%.

Can all this adverse news be taking a toll on our positive mind-set?

The decades-old media trope, “If it bleeds, it leads,” rings truer now than ever. Mass shootings and terrorism continue to wet the media’s insatiable appetite for measurable advertising points. And most certainly this proclivity for fear-driven fare is going nowhere. To be fair, this is their job and their moral obligation.

Finding the Light in the Dark

Light in tunnel

Photo Courtesy of David Anderson CC

As viewers, and more importantly humans, we must filter out this harmful habit of digesting bad news and look for the good in all stories. Yes even terror – somehow. Not an evangelical approach to watching news, but a more cathartic and healthier way towards viewing and processing all the bad out there.

Abraham Lincoln said it best, “We can complain that the rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice that thorn bushes have roses.”

It’s all about how you look at it.

Living our lives day-to-day we craft personal values to help guide us through adversity and hard times. These annual tenets are well fastened to both our work and personal lives. Drawing parallels from bad to good are how we navigate issues and problems on a daily basis. We process the heinous and abominable with the understanding that good (more than often) will triumph.

We are human beings and naturally seek the silver lining in all. We need to approach negative news content the same way.

Putting Our News Into Defined Perspective.

Photo Courtesy of Carbumba CC

Photo Courtesy of Carbumba CC

Many times our individual problems are magnified by what we see as an inconvenience or annoyance. More than often they are not significant problems as we are not processing them correctly. Within the right perspective. Personal bias clouds and distorts the issue and presents it as traumatic. If we take the time to offer further reflection, these same issues may not be as serious as originally thought.

With this analysis, here’s a thought…

We still enjoy getting our local news. What are the Jones’ doing? What is your councillor saying now? What about that new hospital wing? Where did the funds come from? Local news is easy and comforting to process. It’s safe – generally, and allows us to be informed at a speed and tone manufactured by us and acceptable to most. The good is easier to see as it is not immersed in multiple layers of politics, religion, or societal prejudice.

Let’s bring that micro-focus to world events. What if we relate each negative news item to how we receive our local news? Understand the themes and narratives and draw comparisons to our own lives. This ability to compare our everyday issues and crises to what is going on in the world would provide us with a practical more positive account for deeply depressing news.

Here is an example I experienced this past year:

Shocking images of drowned Syrian boy show tragic plight of refugees. (The Guardian September 3, 2015)

Quintessentially the most disturbing and haunting image and accompanying story of 2015. Even today it is hard to look at the photo that changed how the West acted on the Syrian refugee crisis. I know myself when I saw this during breakfast, I gasped and looked away quickly. Was this real? Had the Syrian refugee issue become this bad? We all know the answer to these questions but continue to look for reasons why it happened.

It’s time to start paying attention to the election. (East York Mirror September 3, 2015)

That evening, as I live in East York, Toronto, the weekly neighbourhood tabloid newspaper dropped onto my porch. Right there plain as day on the editorial page was an opinion piece on the upcoming election. I instantly remembered that immigration and the strife of the Syrians was a platform issue for one of the parties vying for my vote.* This offered me a direct and actionable correlation. I could process this mornings image knowing I can help make a difference so this doesn’t happen again by categorizing my vote.

I searched for a redeeming factor within the news item and plugged it into my own world. By associating the events in Europe with my local news, helped ‘softened the blow’ and allowed me to process this news positively and with hope that things will change.

Illuminate Your News

Photo Courtesy of John Ragal

Photo Courtesy of John Ragal

We zoom out of our closed worlds to watch, listen and read about heinous events in relative comfort knowing they are half-a-world-away. Consciously or subconsciously, this frustrates us into a feeling of mental exhaustion spurred by helplessness and inaction. We keep ourselves from looking for the good that can happen, by finding the light in the dark.

In 2016, as either a news junky or nonchalant viewer, we need to take the time to believe that you can find the good in the news. No matter how bad it is.

*Note: In October of 2015, Canada ushered in a new government whose platform was centred on accepting more refugees to Canada.

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