Comment: Truth is things aren’t as bad as we’re lead to believe by keyboard warriors

Those of us who inhabit the glass-half-full club need an occasional boost.

After all, the daily cycle of media headlines, social media hype and politicians focused on negative news makes it hard to wake up positive.

Anyone listening to early morning news radio would be forgiven for closing the curtains and staying in bed.

Various surveys have shown most people believe that life in 2018 is tougher, riskier and more fraught with danger than the experiences of earlier generations.

An hourly flow of unfettered headlines, often propagated via social media platforms that have no editorial integrity, paint a grim picture.

The weather threatens to wipe out the planet. Too many babies are being born around the world that cannot be fed by finite food resources. Violent crime is out of control.

Every single day these themes are rehashed and spewed out by supposedly informed commentators — be they media contributors, politicians or unknown twitter inhabitants.

Much of the commentary goes unchecked, which leaves the consumers inclined to accept a disproportionate element of it.

To counter all of this I recommend two powerful and recently published books. The first is by the highly regarded Canadian psychologist Steven Pinker and is titled Enlightenment Now.

This provides a swathe of detailed analysis and data that shows life expectancy globally is up by 10 years in just the last 50 years.

In fact this book shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge and happiness are on the rise, not just in the west but across the world. His book is a punch in the nose for anyone telling you how miserable life has become.

The second book is titled Factfulness: Ten reasons we’re wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think.

This was identified by no one less than Bill Gates as “one of the most important books I’ve ever read — an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world.”

In it, Hans Rosling argues that stress can be relieved if we develop the habit of only carrying opinions that have strong supporting facts. Compare that simple piece of advice with the torrent of subjective sloganeering that tries to pass itself off as fact in today’s media world.

One of the challenges for anyone trying to take an objective view of this issue is the bias that drives media output.

Like it or not, bad or negative news grabs the attention of readers, listeners and television watchers. Good or positive news tends to be ignored.

Dramatic headlines on social media attracts more clicks than a picture of a pleasant sunrise.

That is the world we live in but its effect on people’s attitudes does not correlate with the facts.

If you happen to be someone who suffers from anxiety or fearfulness, this approach by the media universe is a dangerous thing.

The blanket bad news headlines reinforce any negativity that may have already existed.

You have to wonder how much those who decide what stories sell best think about the real consequence of their actions on individuals who are vulnerable or alone.

Social media is amplifying this problem.

Years ago, the news cycle was confined to a daily paper or TV and radio that was only relevant before or after work.

Now, it seems, everyone is on a “feed” that showers them 24/7 with instant headlines, most of which are alarmist or sensational.

Alongside the data breach scandal that has erupted in recent weeks this is another reason why we should question the narrative presented by social media companies which suggests they are helping develop freedoms and social discourse.

Perhaps instead they are key contributors to a perspective on modern life that is utterly at odds with the facts.

Joe Gill is director of corporate broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal.


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