I wrote an article at the beginning of the week about a shitty experience I had recently. I eagerly opened up my weekly email summarising my stats and found that this has been my most read article to date:
(The previous record was held by this article – 18 views and 12 reads, FYI.)
36 reads is minuscule, I know. It’s early days yet.
A lot of you will be wondering why the fuck I’m complaining about this. Success or failure, there’s no pleasing me!
I’m not complaining. Really, I’m not. I’m thrilled that people are taking the time to read my articles, and I’m chuffed to bits that the number of reads is, overall, rising. (It gives me hope for my future career, whatever that will be.)
I just want to make an observation: in this world, pain sells. In a world dominated by Western social and economic ideology, pain sells. It’s literary capital.
Have you ever read a good story about someone being happy? A book about happiness? Roxane Gay, in her collection of essays Bad Feminist, discusses and explores the ease with which we, as a society, require pain in order to create a compelling story.
Even a quick glance at the news will confirm this. The majority of all reporting is of some tragedy or another, some terrible crime or a natural disaster. It sets a tone of pessimism and apathy, which leads to fewer civic contributions on the part of the working-class majority. (See: readers and watchers of the Daily Mail and Fox News respectively voting for Brexit and Trump, neither of which are even remotely going to serve their long term interests.)
I’m not saying we should stop reporting on bad news. I’m saying we should stop making it our only focus. Allowing pain to be the dominating factor in your reporting (and therefore the main thing that makes you money) further inspires fear, anger and outrage.
And that's no way to live.