We want to be well informed but it is taking a toll on our well-being
We are exposed to news everywhere; tv, radio, online through social media, some of which is fake news, and our attention span is less than a goldfish’s. Disaster news is the number one category in the news interest index and there are studies proving that exposure to bad news can cause anxiety, mood disorders and can even be addictive.
On the other hand, good news has been proven to increase our ‘good mood hormones’ and even strengthen our faith in humanity.
So why isn’t there more good news out there? Let’s first look at what’s happening…
The quality of news
According to data collected by the Pew Research Center, today, 62% of American adults reported getting news on social media, compared to 49% in 2013. Disaster news and news about money and the economy ranked higher in user interest. Conflict news, stories about war and social tribulations came in third. Bad news gets readership and many publications will feature more of this news.
Readers preferred the following
Disaster news 39%
Money news 34%
Conflict news 33%
In addition, we are are also faced with fake news. Fake news is popular because it pulls in the bucks. One single online article could bring in up to $10,000 in advertising revenue. You may have clicked on the article thinking it is a real news scoop, but then in the right margin you catch a glimpse of your favorite movie star looking like hell. Who can resist clicking on the sidebar feature “15 Hollywood Stars Addicted to Drugs”? This is called “click bait”, stories to peak our curiosity and make us click, thus generating income for the site owner. 23% of users say they have believed and shared a fake news story!
Attention span shorter than a Goldfish
Our attention span to stay on task was once 12 seconds, now it is 8 seconds (a goldfish, 9 seconds). In a consumer insights study conducted by Microsoft Canada, 45% of users get side tracked from what they’re doing by unrelated thoughts or daydreams and 37% don’t make the best use of their time so they have to occasionally work late or weekends.
While factors such as social media usage and the use of multiple-screens impact our ability to stay focused, age and gender also play a part. Not surprisingly, the users over 50 were able to sustain focus longer than participants under 30 years of age.
Negative effects of bad news
A study at the University of Maryland demonstrates how “nonverbal information, such as images of war, disaster, and civil mayhem change the way viewers process information.” The study showed that viewers processed the images and sounds such as screams and crashing noises but filtered out the newscaster’s speech and comments.
In his book The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better Thinking, Better Decisions, Rolf Dobelli PhD, states his reasons why news is bad for us. Here is a summary of 3 reasons:
It disrupts our thinking — news items distract and engage us in something other than what we are supposed to be doing. Our ability to focus diminishes the more often we engage.
It changes our brain — our nerve cells are constantly at work and the more interesting the story the more we want to follow up, so our brains are working overtime (and not always in a good way). This too, decreases attention span.
It’s stressful — upsetting stories release cortisol keeping our bodies in a state of stress which can cause anxiety.
So what are we to do?
Do a media detox
By staying away from news and social media our brain gets a chance to regenerate and relax. Dobelli even suggests it can help increase creativity. So when it’s not necessary, stay away from the tv, internet and other sources of media.
Read good news
Just as reading bad news stirs up hormones and sparks neurotransmitters that change mood, so does good news. We can benefit greatly in our personal lives and relationships from exposing ourselves to positive information.
Human-interest stories increase trust and hope in humankind. Stories about improved living and health conditions are uplifting and encouraging. Lastly, no one can dispute the power of laughter; a good, clean, humorous story will leave a smile on your face every time you think back on it.
Prof. Tal Ben-Shahar leads the class “Positive Psychology” at Harvard University and inspires his students to be an “Active Agent” in creating happiness. He encourages taking action, taking responsibility, building confidence and finding hope and optimism are keys factors for happiness.
Prof. Ben-Shahar gave his opinion on one of the leading sources for Good News, he said “The Good News Network is an extremely important initiative. I recommend that each person makes it a habit to visit the website at least once a day. Positive information benefits us emotionally, physically, and mentally. It can contribute in a meaningful way to a happier and healthier life.”
Major publications such a Huffington Post, the Guardian and MSN understand the need and benefit of positive stories and have started “Good News” sections.
Arianna Huffington sold her online enterprise and started ThriveGlobal, which is “committed to accelerating the culture shift that allows people to reclaim their lives and move from merely surviving to thriving.”
Make it a habit
Add good news resources to your daily news feed or check the site for uplifting information.
How to find Good News
· Good News Network http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/
· Huffington Post Good News http://www.huffingtonpost.com/section/good-news
· Reddit.com Uplifting News https://www.reddit.com/r/UpliftingNews/
· MSN Good News https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/good-news
· CBS MIAMI Good News http://miami.cbslocal.com/tag/good-news/
· Good News Broadcast on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/user/GoodNewsBroadcast
International good news
International media professionals are making great efforts to create positivity as well. Carlo d’Ippolito, Italian journalist and founder of Italian Good News said “Our main goal is to show ‘the other Italy’ to the world… we want Italy to be looked at without prejudices that often arise in people’s minds when it comes to our country. [We want] to shed light on good news from Italy.” D’Ippolito is not alone, other publications from India, Finland and more are doing the same.
Good news resources around the world
· Ireland http://www.thejournal.ie/good-news/
· Finland http://www.goodnewsfinland.com/
Get into the habit of looking at the ‘Good News’ section of your favorite publication. If your favorite publication doesn’t have a ‘Good News’ section, ask for one! Everyone will greatly benefit from an uplifting, feel-good story.