I swear it doesn’t take much for our perception of the world to be totally spun up-side-down. On any given day you might see a good samaritan catch up to someone who dropped his or her wallet, or a younger person helping an elderly lady with her groceries. I imagine all around the world good things like this are constantly happening, but if you turn on your evening news you will be fed a violent stew of hate, war, torture, murder, and fear.
The media loves negativity because it drives ratings, which attracts advertisers, which generates revenue. It’s simple business, it’s profitable, and sadly in the mirror we will find the reason as to why it will not be going away any time soon.
I’m willing to bet 50 straight push-ups1 that a large portion of the average person’s perspective of the world is shaped by what they see and hear on their news channel of choice. I have no direct proof of this it’s just my opinion, but let us look into some stats to further along this point.
For this model let’s put America in a vacuum, this article tells us that approximately 30% of Americans have passports. This to me is staggering; two-thirds of Americans stay in the same area they were born in, never really taking the opportunity to go learn something different from what they are accustomed to. Taking that as a fact, logic tells us that 70% never step foot in Europe, Africa, Asia or any other foreign soil. Stuck in their bubble, the news tells them the horrors and complete perceived anarchy of these places, which I imagine further reinforces the desire to abstain from traveling to these places to develop their own opinion.
First it’s flooding – to oil spills – to police shootouts, and on and on we go all day long in our 24-hour news cycle. It’s no wonder why people aren’t happy; soaking all of this in everyday, how could you? Now let me make a few things clear:
- I’m not picking on CNN; they are only informing the public of what they want to be informed about.
- I understand the media’s role in our society requires them to keep the pubic up-to-speed on major world events; I just think after a while it’s overkill.
People love conflict; it drives film, theatre, literature, and many other artistic ventures. Many artists are said to create their best work in times of depression and negativity; though these two examples are not perfectly related to my point, it helps to somewhat explain our addiction to bad news. While the aftertaste of hearing about your local cities’ 100th homicide of the year is something that brings out negative-emotions, feelings, and worry about one’s own residence, tuning into every juicy detail is bait for curiosity. The negativity and depression, the lost of hope drives a narrative that good news could never dream of reaching3.
(Click to enlarge)
Source: BusinessWeek CNN: The Tragedy Queen Cable Network
Notice the uptick during negative events?
We say we hate it, but the ratings say we love it. We say we’re eating healthy, but Coca-Cola and Oreos4 are still moving billions.
The fact is that the media only plays what attracts the most amount of eyeballs, if people loved to hear about young men helping the elderly with their groceries all day, then that would be our news cycle: kidney donation, charity work, volunteership5, so on and so forth. But as of today our lust for the earth’s dirty laundry is keeping the laundromat in business.
- Can’t bet money, things get too emotional. ↩
- Please don’t watch the whole thing, it may depress you to death. ↩
- My local news actually has a 2 minute segment devoted to good news. It feels very forced. ↩
- Both of which I thoroughly enjoy eating, but I also don’t walk around like a heath crusader. ↩
- Not a real word. ↩