How the News Destroys Your Faith in Humanity

Photo by Yosh Ginsu

Have you watched the news lately? Let me guess there were a bunch of stories about bad things happening because of crazy people, right?

News organizations are businesses they exist to make money by getting people to read their articles. Generally it’s much easier to get people to read and interact with the content if you can get an emotional response out of the viewers. Consequently, that means that we end up with lots of stories that are shocking, aggravating, and scary because those are the things people will react to and share. In many ways, it’s similar to why books and tv shows are interesting. As long as there’s tension and conflict it’s interesting. Once all of that tension resolves the book ends and the tv show adds another plot twist.

While this makes the news more interesting it has some unfortunate trickle down effects. There’s a pattern known as the Illusory Truth Effect. It explains the tendency that people have to believe something to be correct if they hear it often enough.

Most of us don’t spend a lot of time beyond our local area, but that doesn’t mean we don’t hear about other places. Whether it’s from Facebook, Google, or the nightly news, the message is pretty much the same. That everywhere else is full of angry, dangerous people doing terrible things. Since you hear it everywhere, all the time, it must be true, right?

Courtesy of the illusory truth effect we’re often left with a dangerous skewed perception of reality. Look at the people around you. I’m willing to bet that most of them are decent people doing their best to make it through this life okay. They’re not perfect, but they’re not crazy like the people you see in the news. You can also take a look at the data. According to the FBI crime in the USA fell by 50% between 1993 and 2015. So despite it feeling like there are more problems now then ever before, at least in the US, there’s actually less.

If you do actually think the people around you are the crazies like you see in the news, it might be worth taking a look at yourself to see if you’re the problem, and/or you should move. Yep, definitely move…

Despite what it seems like in the news, most people are decent human beings just like the people around you, and living in constant paranoia of others comes at a cost.

Don’t let the illusory truth effect cost you friends and help.

Thanks for reading.