Our Print Lifestyle Editor, Rosie, discusses the negativity of modern day news and what it says about us as readers.
Reading the news, it sometimes feels like the only things happening in the world are negative. Obviously so many good and positive things are happening, however we hardly hear of these. Over the past few years, there have been so many news stories which can be summed up by simply describing them with the word sad. Around 90% of all news published is negative. Happy stories do not seem to interest us; we need more than this, yet it is difficult to understand why we want to feel sad.
It wouldn’t be right to say that we enjoy sad things, I think that a better way to describe it is by saying that we are drawn towards them. I am not sure why this is, but it does seem that we are. People don’t seem to want to read news stories that are just nice; happy things do not make news anymore. When we see a news story about a natural disaster, or a criminal, we want to read it. Similarly, there are so many videos on YouTube with the most shocking titles such as ones describing the deaths of close relatives or the terminal illnesses that they are facing, and there are millions of views. In no way can I even begin to question or criticise the fact that people choose to upload these videos – they are grieving and struggling and people have different ways of processing things that help them, so this is completely understandable. What I do struggle to understand though, is what makes us click on them? Why do so many people want to watch these videos? Why do we want to read stories from grieving mothers and people who are in pain? We do all of these things knowing how it will make us feel. We are all aware that it will make us feel sad.
The most obvious answer to this is the idea of catharsis – maybe it is because we like to feel things, and we want to care. We may have normal, happy lives, yet we optionally choose to spend time on things which make us feel sad. Obviously it is important for us to empathise and sympathise, but why do we want to inflict sadness upon ourselves? Maybe we click on these videos or read these things as a way to relate or to understand. Maybe it is out of a desire for positivity, so that we can feel better about our lives. Most of us love a sad song, film or book. From young ages there are books recommended for children which cover things like the death of siblings, or abusive parents, or friends who are ill. As children, we are forced to feel sad about things, and furthermore, we want to. This carries on throughout life.
My original title for this article was ‘why do we want to be sad?’, but this would mean that I would be doing exactly what I wish other people wouldn’t. I should be focusing on the fact that we should all be more happy, not dwelling on the fact that we want to be sad. By happy news, I don’t necessarily mean news such as ‘cat saved from being stuck up tree’, I just mean news that doesn’t focus on negativity. For example, instead of the title ‘man forced to watch wife suffer through final days ending 60 years together’, the title could be ‘devoted husband spends finals days by wife’s bed after a lifetime of 60 years together’. Nothing takes away from the fact that it is an unfathomably sad story, and there is no way that it could ever be something which makes you feel happy, however I don’t understand why we would want to make it even more sad and even more negative than it already is.
To put it simply, happiness is a good feeling and sadness is a bad feeling, so why would we ever choose sadness?