Democracy is in danger. Climate change will kill us all. Income inequality is out of line. Life expectancy is declining.
Wherever you look on the internet, the torrent of bad news is inescapable.
This phenomenon has a term — doomscrolling. When you open up your favourite social media or news app/website and scroll through the feed, chances are you see a significant proportion of content that is doom and gloom. There’s no hope for the world. Everything is f*cked.
Identifying problems is an important function of every profession, and the media does this at scale. It is important to be aware of issues and resolve them before they blow out of proportion.
However, most of the media is now dependent on advertising revenue, not reader subscriptions. The incentive is no longer (only) to report facts or keep readers informed, but to capture attention to generate traffic and engagement. Nothing does this quite like outrage and shock, be it in a news headline or an opinion piece.
Highlighting (and worryingly, exaggerating) problem after problem is a way to generate said traffic and engagement. Let’s not even get started on outright fake news and conspiracy theories.
And this constant barrage of negativity isn’t healthy for readers.
So what do we do?
A medium-effort solution to this problem is to curate your online experience to deliver what is useful, without the clickbait or alarmist dressing that messes with your brain.
It is definitely important that media publishes stuff about climate change, authoritarianism, hunger, poverty, conservation and hundreds of important issues. However, it is a gargantuan task for any individual reader to be knowledgeable about everything, and even harder to do something about all this stuff.
You will likely just end up with outrage fatigue, which doesn’t help the problems being talked about, but negatively affects your mindset. Browsing news without filters will amplify the doomscroll and outrage fatigue without much gain.
Some good filters would be:
- Topics. Reserve your mental energy for things you truly care about, and what you can do something about.
- Location. The further away something is happening from you, the less likely it is that it actually affects you, or that you’d be able to do something about it.
- People. Follow journalists and writers who cover important topics in a professional way — focusing on the breadth and depth of issues on their merit rather than telling you how to feel.
- Passive consumption. Get your information, and disengage. There is no good that will come out of being a keyboard warrior. Nobody listens to anybody in the cesspit of comment threads (particularly on issues like politics and gender), and everyone just comes out of it feeling angry.
Also, as far as possible, subscribe/donate to quality journalism. Ad-free media organizations serve the interests of readers, not advertisers.
While curation can solve a large part of the problem, perhaps you’re looking for specific aggregators/publishers who focus on positive news. Below are a few you should definitely give a try.
- r/upliftingnews: Like most popular social media/aggregation sites, the doomscroll is a standard Reddit experience, particularly on its news and politics forums, which only gets exacerbated once you scroll through the comments. However, there also exists r/upliftingnews, a subreddit with 16.8 million members which describes itself as “A place to read and share positive and uplifting, feel-good news stories.” This aggregator subreddit is probably your best bet as the sources below, while doing the job well, don’t have the sort of budget it takes to
- Positive News: Positive News is an independent magazine that describes itself as ‘the magazine for good journalism about good things’, publishing stories on their website every day with a quarterly print edition as well. They are crowdfunded, with over 1,500 “co-owners” ranging from readers to journalists, who form the candidate and voter pool for the organization’s board of directors.
- The Optimist Daily: This is an independent, reader-funded project whose stated mission is “To accelerate the shift in human consciousness by catalyzing 100,000,000 people to start each day with a positive solutions mindset.” While a cursory glance can make the website seem focused on conservation and alternate energy, they also have a significant number of articles on personal development and life hacks.
- Location-specific: There are multiple country-specific websites with focus on reporting the good stuff. One example is The Better India, a Manthan Award winning online news platform focused on positive stories.
Hope this was useful. If you know of any other websites/subreddits/twitter accounts or if you have other tips to share, please do mention in the comments!