October 13, 2018. LIMBURG, THE NETHERLANDS – Today, for about seven billion people lived their lives on planet earth. For some, the day wasn’t as good, but for at least 85% of the humans alive the day was relatively peaceful. They had enough food to eat and enough water to drink throughout the whole day. They lived in peace and didn’t meet any violence throughout the whole day. Today was a good day for them who had the luck to be alive on this good day.
I asked around to friends and family members why today was such a good day. Funny to say, they almost all lived a life in peace and happiness today, even though the newspapers were like 90% negative, isn’t that strange? Some people passed their propaedeutic exam in history today :). Some of them are remembering a great compliment they heard today. Some were so happy to see an amazing dog at their workplace. Some were happy to celebrate a good mark (A+) with cake. Some bought those new shoes they were willing to buy for so long. Some watched the greatest movie they have ever watched. One friend discovered an article about piracy called ‘An-arrggh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization‘, which made his day. For about 350.000 parents gave life to a young little miracle today. Some people discovered great new music, happy classical music in the case I’m talking about. Some of them went for the most beautiful and spiritual walk of their lives. Some watched the new Riverdale episode on Netflix and they enjoyed it. Around 19 million people had an amazing birthday today. [insert why this day is amazing.] Today was wonderful in so many ways!
Afterwards, we can expand the good day to a good time era. There were countless long-term developments in history that resulted in a better life for humans in the present.
The poverty rates declined from the 1750s onwards. Now, I won’t say everything is perfect. There sure is a lot of inequality between continents and countries. But I can conclude that the conditions are far better than in the past. In Europe, most of the people were farmers who were season-dependent before the 19th Century. Since that time, not only the European recourses to food became better, but that was a global rise. Because at that time Europe had most of the world in hands, other countries developed more slowly. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t developing by the means of poverty. People around the globe can buy more and more food when time passes, and they can buy more now than ever before!
Not only poverty is disappearing, but war rates have also dropped in the last fifty years as well. With the rise of the nation-state, military institutions were very important, but from that time on, global violence dropped. After the Second World War, wars in Europe, America, East Asia and South Africa seem to have come to an end. The only war zones, the Balkan and the Middle East, are so little that war is nothing now in contrast to half a century ago. People today thus live in more peace than they did ever before.
One another great concept we have now is The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since the United Nations accepted this ‘law’, the life of several ‘minorities’ throughout the world has been improved. It is strange to say, but not very long ago, women were a minority in Western society. They gained equal political rights at the beginning of the 20th Century in Europe, but the real road to equality begins in the 1960s. To this day, women’s wages are lower than men’s and imaging about men and women are still not what feminists wish to see. In other parts of the world, polygamy or women’s suppression has been a real problem. Since 1900, woman’s rights are improving, and we must be thankful for the time we live in because woman and men are getting more equal and equal.
Because of the improvements in the food supply in combination with more medical research, we can cure more diseases than ever! You could die from the Black Dead, smallpox, syphilis, [insert vague historical disease] in the past. Now we can cure almost every historical plague. Not only can we cure more, but we also have got more easy ways to achieve it. Where they thought to cut you open was the best solution to almost every disease in the Middle Ages, nowadays we have to take in prescription drugs and in a few days/weeks/months we are cured. A simple syringe instead of long deep knives. And if we can’t cure it or do it the easy way, we at least can give you morphine or something so that you won’t feel the pain anymore. Today’s medical field is awesome!
Because of the decreasing numbers in poverty, war, diseases and an upgrading of mentality towards women and motherhood, infant mortality rates dropped the same as the aforementioned. Infant mortality was reduced with 4,3 % a year looking at the statistics. It seems like the trend started for about two hundred years ago. It is wonderful to see that your own child will probably not die from diseases at birth. We may think this is normal, but before the 19th Century, it was considered normal that every family had some kids who died at birth or close after it. Of course, this still happens, but it happens a lot less. We should be thankful for that.
With poverty, infant mortality and diseases dropping, it is logical that this is a cause and effect by higher education levels. As we see in the figure on the left, educational enrolment throughout the whole world grew since 1971. This has a good influence on the medical care and economy. So, the educational levels indicate that fewer people are dying, people will live longer and people live with more wealth. People thus have less life-threatening distractions. So they can focus more on their lives and on being happy individuals (or collectives, for the most non-Western) countries.
Higher education levels also ensure that technology is rising. The 21st Century, the Century of, if I may say, futuristic technology. We’re all taking our little supercomputers called smartphones with us everywhere we go. We’ve got access to millions and millions of information sources across the internet. We’ve got access to entertainment everywhere we go. We can write blogs everywhere we go. We’ve got a camera, can call whoever we want, can communicate with whoever we want and actually can do whatever we want whenever we want with our tiny little smartphones. And you know what’s more amazing? There is more coming! Technology will make our lives easier and easier until we are getting used to this easiness of life. Also, technology will improve the world. For example on an environmental scale. Cars on electricity or hydrogen will make the planet greener. Virtual Reality will make our dreams come true. 3D printers are saving lives in the medical field already at this moment! I mean, we’ve got 3D printers, tablets, laptops, smartphones, televisions, robots, self-driving cars, a virtual assistant… We are living in the future, man!
Why do we love bad news and why is it bad for us?
The above text is a little parody on news and media of the present day. The news is so negative that some people (including me) choose to not to follow it. I’ve adopted the ‘I will hear it when it is important or I will search it up if I want to know it’ mentality for most of the time. I seem to be a special case because the news is making huge money on people with their negative exploding headlines. The more astonishing, the more money for the newsmakers. But, why is it that people want to read those negatively loaded news items?
The answer is simple: Reality shows. Why do people watch reality shows? TPeople watch reality shows for two reasons: competition and drama. Those two are kind of the same thing. Reality shows often are about some kind of competition. Sometimes it’s a real competitive game the partitioners are playing, and sometimes it’s a competition for status. People love to watch the drama that revolves around the competition. They can kind of compare themselves to the people in the reality shows. That can make them feel better or worse, and often better because the reality show people are usually having a bad time compared to the viewer.
So why does this explain why people watch bad news? Well, as we have seen, people love to watch shows with drama. But why is that? Psychology says that nastiness makes a bigger impact on our brain. So, the more negative and dramatic the news, the more we are willing to remind it. That way, we will come back to the newspaper/site and we will provide the newsmakers for money. Paper happy, you happy? I don’t think so. Although negativity, drama and nastiness have a bigger impact on our mind doesn’t mean we get happy by it. We may be entertained for a minute. But neither, feeling bad because you read some people died or being entertained by people who died, is good.
Although these research results are the harsh reality, it’s a fact that people keep coming back to the news. The news is manipulative and addictive. The first is true because the news can transform reality (and will lots and lots of times do this). The bigger newspapers transform their news to fit into a political ideology. Some papers are left, some right, some progressive and some conservative, and that while they (usually) all expose the same news. But the political colour of the paper also determines which news it will show and, more important, which news they will exclude.
On the notion that the news is addictive can a lot been said as well. Why do you come back to the news every time? You are addicted to the way it can give you daily drama. You want to know every new news because you know it appears every second. The news is as addictive as social media like Instagram or Facebook. You might think you will become smarter from the news. Maybe that’s true in some way, but the problem with the news is that they show only negative things that sell and almost never show the underlying structures of our time. The consequence is that you will miss a lot of information to do realistic image formation of reality.
Why news damages our mental condition is because we aren’t used to so much negative information in such a short period of time. The news gives us huge amounts of information, in combination with negativity. We have to process this, but our human nature isn’t used to do this. In the premodern era, we didn’t have to process so much information. Farmers worked on the land and it took weeks for important news from another country to reach them. Now, we get a lot of information by even a glimpse at our smartphones. Messages from all over the world are at our fingertips in only a matter of a second. But we can’t process it. Humans go from one to another medium throughout the day to absorb information and afterwards wonder why most feel stressed when the day is done.
Labelling the news
Some side notes must be placed when discussing the news. I don’t want to imply that there is only positive news out there and that the world is all sunshine and unicorns. It isn’t, it’s reality. And the reality is neutral until humans interpret it. You would say that the rates of news would be 50/50 positive/negative ratio to be in line with reality, right? It isn’t. Most news, like 90-95%, is negative. That’s the reason why I thought this subject needed attention.
At last, I have to make an important remark. Above, we were talking about ‘positive’ news and ‘negative’ news. Those labels are subjective, therefore we can’t truly talk about negative and positive news. When a drug boss is killed by the cops, most of the people (who are afraid of criminality for example) will be happy that he isn’t a threat anymore. The family of the killed man, on the other hand, will probably mourn about the death of their family member. You can apply this to every given situation.
The news may have a great impact on how we view the world, be it negative or positive, but the real impact isn’t the news itself but how you perceive it. When I read a historical newspaper from the end of the 18th Century, I must say that I don’t have feelings for the people who fell in battles (or something related that you may label as negative). I am neutral to the historical news, maybe because I know how it did unfold, but I’m not sure. Maybe this mentality of neutrality is a good way to perceive the news of the present when you are interested in following it. The only problem is that this is very hard to do for most of the time so we get distressed by the news we watch.
In this post, we’ve seen that there is an alternative for the daily dose of bad news: positive news which shows the underlying structures of our society. Those are structures which determine humanity and the news in the long run. It is explainable that news is bad and dramatic (for the cha-ching). All I want to do is raise awareness of this. When you are aware of the world around you, you can choose your own destiny.