Every now and then I stumble into someone who knows more about what’s going on in the world then I know about my own mother. Oke, maybe a bit exaggerated, but it sure as hell feels that way. These people tell me all the facts they ‘read’ and ‘heard’ about Trump, North Korea, Syria and a possible starting of world war 3. Talking with these people makes me think the world is going crazy. That it’s a fucked up place and that we are living in the worst era ever.
But to be honest…
I used to be a news junkie myself…. Especially when I had my first smartphone I would consume a lot of news apps multiple times a day. But at a certain moment, I realized that watching the news (like social media) is just another way of consumption. And ultimately it’s distracting us from the things that matter. You’re not producing anything, you’re just letting your brain go into auto mode and (unconsciously) end up feeling negative by all the things you read, see and hear. At a certain point in life, I decided to minimize my news intake. I had better stuff to do.
‘That makes you an uninterested and indifferent person… Well, so be it. But before you make these statements. Let’s take a look at the facts first.
Media display NEGATIVE news
People tend to forget that we love to read negative things. So the media is programmed to create negative stuff. In a democratic world, the ‘customer is king’. So if we (the customer) like to read negative stuff, we will get exactly that. It’s that simple. Why do we like to consume negative things? Research has shown this is due to our negativity bias. Our hunger to hear and remember bad news. Journalists just deliver what appeals to us. Well, actually they just deliver what sells best. But they’re not to blame. We, the consumers aren’t either. Our genetics are the dominating factor. Our negative bias is a product of our caveman days and was necessary for our survival. So at the end of the day, this is how we are conditioned. However, this doesn’t mean we have to act on that conditioning.
Another negative effect watching the news has on us is that it triggers our availability bias. Basically, this means we estimate potential threats and danger by what is available to us. The media is one of the sources that trigger this bias. For example, if we see a shark attack or a plane crash on the news we assume that these incidents kill a lot of people. However, in contrast, falling off a ladder kills more people but hardly reaches the news. So if we see a lot of news about ISIS we might assume that a third world war is about to start, while the chance that your ex get’s hit by lightning, while she’s streaking at a Wimbledon match is larger.
We live in the best era to date. Period.
If you have read the book Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker you’ll find out that we live in the greatest (understatement) era known to human history. By far! Steven Pinker highlights how great the world has progressed thanks to the enlightenment. The enlightenment gives us reason, science, humanism (cosmopolitism) and progress. All of this had a had a dramatically positive effect on the quality of our lives. Whether it’s life expectancy, crime rates, happiness levels or wealth just about every indicator of ‘the good life’ has been growing and there is no sign that this will stop.
Just a few indicators of the ‘good life’:
- Only a few 100 years ago slavery was seen as a fact of life. Now it’s rare.
- Extreme poverty has dropped from 90% in the early 1800s to 10% in today’s world and will disappear by the end of the century.
- In the mid-eighteenth century, the global life expectancy was 29 years old. Today it’s around 70 years.
- Just 150 year ago 1 of 3 Swedish children died (mainly due to hunger).
- About 45 years ago 35 percent of the world was malnourished. Today that number has dropped to an all-time low of 13 percent (2015).
- There are hardly any conflicts anymore in the world. And the trend is showing a continuous decline.
- Although some of us might think that there will be third world war coming, the fact of the matter is that there have never been fewer wars.
Besides these facts, another true indicator of ‘the good life’ is the stupid shit we can complain and dwell about:
- ughhh – I’m never going back to that restaurant – It doesn’t have coca cola but Pepsi. I hate Pepsi. #FML
- No.. my boyfriend gave me the most stupid present for Valentines days evah #FML.
Actually, if you want to see evidence of how great our lives are check the increase of the #FML hashtag. If there is a decline of more than 20 percent in a year. Contact me. I’ll write a new article.
As a matter of fact, of course, there are certain things that need our undivided attention like the environment, animal injustice and Kim Jung Un’s haircut. But facts are facts. We all have the ingredients to live a great life.
So with these facts in mind, you probably have grabbed a mojito to celebrate this realization. If not, you can consider yourself an extreme pessimist. Either way, go to the bookstore and buy the book enlightenment now or watch the youtube version.
You change the world by action (not by consumption).
Realizing the media is programmed to write negatively and we live in the best era humanly possible you probably are considering a news detox. Good idea, I’m cheering. However, these facts don’t mean you should become indifferent about life. By all means, add value to the world. Having meaning and adding value are ways to live a GREAT life. And thanks to technologies like the internet and your smartphone (another sign of ‘the good life’) we more than ever have the opportunity to add value. No excuses. So take action. Checking the news is just another form of consumption.