FRIGHTENING, ALARMING, bad stuff sells.
Our brains are especially attuned to danger. The people who sell
news know this, at least intuitively, and use it against you
for their own benefit.
Your attention gets arrested by an alarming
headline, and arrested attention sells newspapers, so any paper
that tries to sell newspapers without alarming headlines is out-competed
by newspapers with alarming headlines.
During the first half of the 1990's, the
murder rate went down, but during that same period, media coverage
of murders tripled! The headline of a small child who gets murdered
works to get us to buy the paper, which is good for the newspaper
people BUT it leaves you depressed. It is a pessimistic communication
that makes your view of life worse than it is and makes you less
willing to act.
The overselling of bad news (and underselling
of good news) is darkening the viewpoint of people at large,
which actually creates worse conditions, which leads to more
The REAL world is not in a magazine, no
matter how realistic. The magazine is a distorted view of reality.
In the example given in The
Bad News About Bad News, Colors Magazine depicted
a man in a polyester jump suit standing on a well-manicured lawn
with a nice house in the background, and he was feeding a tidbit
to his well-groomed poodle. The other picture was five or six
young boys, dirty and ragged, living in a hole in the street.
This is a distortion. The rich guy was
perfectly rich, the poor kids were perfectly poor.
The magazines that flaunt everything that's terrible in the world
are out after your money. Other magazines, like the Christian
Science Monitor, win awards because they care first about
journalism and trying to accurately relay the truth. Of course
they make money, but they don't sacrifice reality to sell copy.
The tabloids that sell "news"
about things like an alien mating with the ghost of Elvis constantly
sacrifice reality to sell news. The eleven o'clock news isn't
as blatant, but they also distort reality to sell news.
There are billions of people and billions
of stories to be told. Yes, terrible things happen, but so do
magnificent feats of courage and great love. The bad-news hawkers
are ruining your attitude. And the horror about that is that
in the real world, the world you find yourself alive in
right here before you, in this real world, this actual real live
world where your butt sits, in this world, a bad attitude
means less good gets done in your life. Not only did you lose
the moments absorbing the bad news, your state after absorption
leads to less achievement, less love, less happiness, less health...less
life. Bad moods rob us of energy and drain all who interact
with us, so they also get less done and so on.
what you can do about it
Alarm and fear sells papers and gets people
to watch the program, which makes the station more money from
the advertisers. Our perceptual apparatus wasn't designed to
deal with news. It isn't equipped to handle the woes of the far
corners of the earth. The unfortunate incidents of our own life,
including the people close to us, is about all we can deal with
Merely seeing a news story about a tragedy
makes that kind of incident seem more prevalent, more common,
than it really is. If we only went by what we actually saw in
real life, the world would not seem very dangerous.
Here's what you can do about it:
Stop tuning into any news that makes
you feel helpless, distrusting, fearful, hopeless, and that doesn't
give you the sense that you can do something about it. If you want to "stay up on the events of
the world," try to find sources that don't create pessimism.
Pick the global problem that most bothers
you and do something about it. If
you think there's nothing you can do, then first cure yourself
of your own pessimism. The resources on this web site can help
you (see links below).
Share this page with people you know.
And if someone emails you some
bad news, tell the person about this page.
If a friend of yours seems pessimistic,
help her or him become more optimistic. Optimism
does not include burying your head in the sand or in the clouds.
It is a balanced look at reality. It is practical and effective.
As I say in the second chapter of Self-Help Stuff That Works:
In a study by Lisa Aspinwall, PhD, at the
University of Maryland, subjects read health-related information
on cancer and other topics. She discovered that optimists spent
more time than pessimists reading the severe risk material and
they remembered more of it.
These are people, says Aspinwall,
who arent sitting around wishing things were different.
They believe in a better outcome, and that whatever measures
they take will help them to heal. In other words, instead
of having their heads in the clouds, optimistic people look.
They do more than look, they seek. They arent afraid to
look into the situation because theyre optimistic.
Optimism will give you the strength to
confront difficult realities with open eyes. Optimism has the
potential to be even more contagious than pessimism. If nothing
else, optimists tend to have more energy. But there is something
else: Optimism is more ethical. It is more life-giving, more
enjoyable. It is more right.
If you would like some information about
becoming optimistic, check out the Attitude section of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works.
If you would like some information about
how to help other people become more optimistic, read the People section of
Self-Help Stuff That Works.
Go to the following sites and get the email
addresses of your representatives
and put them in your address book, and write to them now and
then. Urge them to vote on the bills you feel strongly about.
Let them know what you think. This is an easy way to have an
effect. The important thing is to do something about what you
learn. This prevents you feeling like a helpless victim, which
is the end result of watching or reading mainstream news. Feeling
helpless is bad for your health and impairs your ability to accomplish
in this world.
Learn more. Take action.