If you can stand watching the news today then you’re a tougher person than I am. I’d like to know what’s going on in the world, but every time I see the news I either hear about sexual abuse, police brutality, natural disasters, or yet another mass shooting. The news has always made me feel like there’s nothing good happening in the world. But my hatred for the news got even worse this past election year. As a Democrat and a female, I can’t stomach what I see on the news. Starting my day hearing the latest horrible thing that Trump said, doesn’t put me in a good mood to go pursue my dreams and have a wonderfully productive work day. But I’m not writing this blog to discuss politics with you… that wouldn’t get us anywhere and it wouldn’t change what’s happening. The point is, I hate the news.
The Problems With Our News
1 ) All Negative
The way that the news operates, is it highlights the bad things that are happening. Then at the end of a half hour or hour long segment, there’s one positive little short story to leave you with some hope. But unfortunately, the thirty-second bit about a cute puppy doesn’t undo the stress that all the other stories caused. Seeing so many horrible news stories, one right after another causes feelings of anxiety and gives people a negative outlook on the world. Sometimes it even feels like there are no good people in the world and that everyone is out to hurt you. For me personally, when I watch the news it makes me fearful and paranoid especially when the news is focusing on violence against women.
2) Offers No Solutions
The other big problem with our news sources today is that not only do they share one awful story after another, but they offer no solutions to any of the problems. This is the big reason why I stopped watching the news. When news sources share all of the bad things in the world and then offer no solutions on how to be involved in the issues, it causes the feeling of helplessness. Millions of people turn on the news every day but then end the news segment thinking, “there’s nothing I could possibly do about this.” It appears that the world is completely screwed up but nothing can be done.
3 ) The Fighting
Have you noticed that news, instead of being informative, purposefully puts one group of us against the other? Every time you turn on the news it’s black vs. white, police vs. citizens, republicans vs. democrats, pro-life vs. pro-choice. So much time on the news is spent showing people argue with each other, which then causes the viewers to go on social media and fight with strangers. Even the commentators on the news yell at each other and call each other ignorant and uneducated, or a “snowflake.” I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I wanna see when I’m watching the news. If I wanted to watch people yell and scream at each other, I’d turn on The Real Housewives.
4 ) The Illusion of Getting Worse
The last issue that I always notice while watching the news is this illusion that the world is getting worse. Watching so many stories of murder, crime and corruption creates the idea that more and more bad things happen every day. It makes the world appear as if there’s been no progress in any national and global issues. I can’t possibly count the number of time’s I’ve heard myself say, “What is happening with the world?” I’ve probably said it every time I’ve watched the news in the last few years. When you never get a break from the bad, it’s easy to feel like the world is sprinting out of control.
I recently discovered while scrolling through Ted.com a video that enlightened me to what really is happening in the world. The Ted Talk by Steven Pinker is called “Is the world getting better or worse? A look at the numbers.” As it turns out, the world is becoming a better place! Pinker shows how all of the world’s greatest and most terrifying problems like child mortality, terrorism, world hunger, poverty, homicide, pollution, and nuclear weapons have all gone down tremendously.
Not only that but the world is getting safer as we go about our daily lives. Here are a few statistics from Pinker’s presentation:
Over the last century, we’ve become…
- 96% less likely to be killed in a car crash
- 88% less likely to be hit by a car on the sidewalk
- 99% less likely to die in a plane crash
- 95% less likely to be killed on the job
- 89% less likely to be killed by an “Act of God” (drought, flood, wildfire, storm, volcano, landslide, earthquake)
Also, in the last several centuries…
- Life expectancy went from 30 years old to 70-80 years old
- 1/3 of all children used to die before the age of 5, now it’s less than 6% of children in the poorest countries of the world
- 90% of the world’s population was in extreme poverty, today it’s fewer than 10%
- 90% of the world’s population under the age of 25 can read and write today, compared to 5%
- Westerners used to work 60 hours a week, today we work less than 40 hours
- Instead of spending 60 hours a week doing housework, we spend less than 15 hours a week (thanks to the help of appliances, running water and electricity)
Pinker discusses how there’s been progress in all of the areas that make up the well-being of the human race including life, health, sustenance, prosperity, peace, freedom, knowledge, leisure, and happiness. So as it turns out, the world has seen drastic improvements on a global scale. But my favorite statistic is 86% of the world’s countries happiness increased in recent decades! The world is getting better every single year!
But as I mentioned above, the news that we consume doesn’t reflect the reality. Call it “fake news” if you want 😂 Pinker shares that even though the world has gotten healthier, wealthier, wiser, safer, and happier, the news doesn’t reflect this because “if it bleeds it leads.” Most journalists don’t want to share stories that are about peace, love, and happiness. That isn’t going to get ratings. So we see the news that’s interesting, scary, gut-wrenching, and “feeds off our morbid interests,” as Pinker would say.
I would also argue that our access to information plays a key role. Due to technology, we can access stories from all over the world. I can go on my phone right now and learn about all of the horrible things that happened in my country, or China, or India, or ___fill in the blank___. I can turn on dozens of different news channels, go on social media, Google it, etc. And because this news is so easy to access and we’re only exposed to the bad news all day long, I’ve believed with my whole being that the world is steadily getting worse. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one. But it hasn’t, what has gotten worse is how easy it is to access those depressing stories. Lucky for us, there’s now a way we can easily access positive stories…
“Ok Google, tell me something good.”
I’m completely excited about a new feature that Google developed! As of this month, using Google Assistant, you can now say to your Google Home or Google Home Mini, “Ok Google, tell me something good.” Google will then tell you the positive news stories that are happening in the world. This new feature has been designed to give users a sense of optimism so we no longer feel like the world is crashing down around us. It also focuses on the news stories that revolve around solutions. Google does this by sharing the issues and how people are working to fix or eliminate the problems. It will remind people that even though there is a problem, there’s something that can be done about it. The audience doesn’t have to feel helpless about what’s going on. This may also inspire people to be proactive and create more conversation about what we can do. It changes the question in our head from, “What is happening in the world?” to “How can I help?”
What makes this feature even better is that Google is also working on a Google Assistant app for smartphones. That way people who don’t have a Google Home can use this feature on their smartphone. Everyone will soon be able to access positive news stories simply by saying, “Ok Google, tell me something good.” I’m so grateful that I no longer have to feel like I have to avoid the news. I’ve tried many times to seek out positive news sources, but there wasn’t anything that I found with decent writers and regular content.
My hope is that over the next few years, news stations will start to follow in Google’s footsteps and include positive stories, or at least solution based stories. Imagine a world where people didn’t feel like they had to avoid the news and where the news inspired us to be proactive about making the world an even better place.
What do you think about this new feature using Google Assistant? What are your thoughts on the news today? Have you ever fallen into the belief that the world is getting to be a worse place? Do you think that this feature may inspire more journalists and news stations to share the good news? Let me know in the comments!