News has forever been generally negative. We all know that old cliché that ‘no news is good news’, well it works backwards too. In other words ‘good news is no news’. There are other writers, more learned than I, who have probably written long theses on why this is so, but even I recognise, that we live in a global world where fear is a huge factor in our lives. Stoking our fears and insecurities makes us better consumers and advertising funds the media, so I guess that the status quo is going to remain for some time to come.
But I don’t think that it is altogether fair to blame the media entirely for the barrage of negative news that we are subjected to every day. I think that we also have a morbid fascination with bad news. Just look at how people get so seemingly spellbound by disasters and tragedy on a grand scale. Is this because we all possess an element of the “God I am glad that I am not in that situation” type thinking? Perhaps.
We in Ireland are also endlessly fascinated by politics and more recently economics. We greedily soak up the news and the conversations of celebrity experts on everything from bond markets to septic tanks. Often these conversations and discussions go around and around in circles never actually reaching any conclusion as trendy economists and outspoken politicians whizz from studio to studio peddling their own particular wisdom which in turn becomes the water cooler or twitter conversations. All of which leads us subconsciously to live in a state of stress about the future.
There is nothing wrong with stress as a short term measure to combat some threat. Being stressed when you find yourself staring down a lion, for example, would be most useful but in day to day life this low level anxiety cannot be good for us.
Psychologist Maureen Gaffney wrote recently that “resilience during periods of stress relies on the ability to actively rebalance positive and negative emotions.”
So why is there seemingly so little balance in the news and current affairs media? That is something that only the media can answer but in the meantime we as individuals need to develop the ability to stand back from what we are reading, listening to or watching from time to time. We need to regularly ask ourselves “how am I feeling today?” Much of what we hear about on news media, from natural disasters to impending financial meltdowns, we have no control over. So if you are already feeling a little bit below par, a bit fed up, uneasy or worried then recognise that fact and take a break away from the bad news.
I know that if you, like me, are a current affairs junkie who likes to know what is going on, turning off The News, or Primetime or Tonight with Vincent Browne might be a radical step. For years my alarm radio was set to RTE Radio 1 so it was the voices of Morning Ireland I woke up to. But recently there have been mornings when I know that I don’t want to begin my day with all this financial gloom and dire doom. Depending on my emotional state I may chose Hector’s roaring from Galway to jar me awake or on other mornings it will be some classical music on Lyric FM. But the point is to recognise when enough is enough for you and move that dial.
In the meantime I will continue to drone on about how we need more positivity and inspiring stories in our news media to balance all the negative stuff. I will continue to love hearing RTE’s Philip Bromwell’s voice as I know he will bring me a tale of dolphins, or rescued dogs or squirrels. I say we need more like him. We need more uplifting and life affirming good news stories which are everywhere in our society, particularly in these hard times. These stories may not make us better consumers immediately but ultimately by bringing balance to our news we will be a nation of happier, less stressed citizens which just might play a large part in Ireland getting herself out of this brutal recession.