057 Good news never makes the headline

It’s really funny, but I think many people would agree with me on this one that good news really doesn’t often meet the fame of achieving the spot at the headlines. Why? We’ll get to that in a minute. But short answer is that if it would, journalists would lose their jobs.

Humans have something what psychologists refer to as “negativity bias/instinct”. This is a common, a very common misjudgment and biased tendency of human beings, indeed (across all or almost all human beings). It refers to our tendency to get inclined to bad and negative news. As much as we hate reading the bad news of people dying, oceans rising and the gap between the rich and the poor increasing (which is not happening! But that’s a subject to address on another day). Even though we hate to hear it, it seems that we love to hear it as well. It’s reverse psychology, I know, but for humans it’s normal to be craving bad news. Real life example: I remember that when COVID-19 was getting serious, I’d see people talking about it and checking the data every day to see how many new cases were caused the previous day and then they would sigh and say, “It’s getting worse.” (some days, even I was drawn towards doing so). Homo Sapiens are inclined towards bad news. And that’s why journalists “look” for bad news which are actually just so small and insignificant sudden changes in important matters of today’s world which make the headline to attract readers (and that’s how they earn more money). I call them small and insignificant because they really are. No matter how bad news really is, it’s RELATIVELY … nothing. It’s just a small dip in a world that’s constantly rising up and up on the Y-axis of all good things.

But the journalists are smart. And so they make their news such that it seems the world is getting much, much worse, instead what’s happening is exactly the opposite! They make the small dips look so fatal as if we’ll need to get on a spaceship and get off Earth any second now. But this is not what’s happening. Have you ever wondered how the media is able to print 25-30 pages of small font “NEWS” everyday? It’s because they make a huge mountain out of a small molehill! How much, really how much can change in 24 hours in a race that’s been alive and been improving (on a big picture scale) since 200,00 years with just periodic dips from time to time. So news makes it a big deal out of one day hiccups which really aren’t of any great significance. And what this does is it hides the real improvement and the GOOD in the world. You see, good doesn’t happen in a day. Even if it does, the news doesn’t care about it, because of our biases. But the REAL GOOD happens on the many year scale basis. Not in a day. We improve gradually on a not so steep slope. But over time, relatively quickly actually, those small improvements account for a huge amount and we don’t see this because this change happens non-consciously in front of us, everyday, so it doesn’t feel like a change. As an analogy let’s take this: I grew in terms of height, very much during the whole lock-down period. And now when others see me they get shocked with such a huge rise (improvement) in my height so quickly, even though it wasn’t so quickly. But this wasn’t that huge of an astonishment to people living in my house. Because they saw me grow everyday. I grew in front of them. When change takes place in front of our eyes on a gradual basis, we don’t sense it. But when a dramatic hit occurs, we can immediately perceive it.

Most of the good happens on the gradual scale right in front of us but still unperceivable. And media goes wrong in not celebrating all our achievements from all the years that have led to so much improvement in our Homo sapiens race as a whole. They show us the periodic bad news dips. Which are insignificant.

That is why good news never gets it’s deserved spot on the headlines.

References: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’Re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling
You can check the book out here.

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