Beast from the East Returns! Season of fear, not cheer! Tournament Axed! Manchester evacuated as Storm Christoph blitzes!
Have you ever heard of ‘mean world syndrome?’ Nor had I until recently but I’ve been aware of its intention for years! I was vividly traumatised, not just for the days that followed, but even now, by an article showing how a tiny child had met an untimely death on an elevator in a shopping mall… FIVE THOUSAND MILES from my home. Why had this disturbing article shown up on my newsfeed? Well, it was accompanied by a side bar full of ads for safety shoes and baby harnesses…
The world’s huge range of media outlets – even those less sensationalist and more credible – can be guilty of hunting for the most horrific, terrifying events – or worse, normal everyday events which they wrap up with terrifying vocabulary – and then stuff it down our necks so that our bellies are full of it. This has the impact of depleting our bodies and muddying our hearts. These sensational headlines pander to something known as negative brain bias; it’s a physiological reaction that we find hard to avoid because we have more stimuli in our brain chemistry for danger and threat than we do for safety and pleasure.
Does this mean journalists or their media mogul bosses are cruel – even murderous? Not necessarily…but they can be mercenary as they do exploit our brain chemistry, creating the markets which increase their advertising revenue. It takes just a little more awareness to redress this imbalance, to redirect our focus toward all the abundant, warming love and kindness there is – both close to home and miles away.
I’ve had at least three conversations with friends and family in the last twenty four hours which show how we can thrive on a little drama – it can make us feel alive, bring attention our way; it’s a signpost that we matter to others when those others react to the theatricality, just as they would in a fourth wall drama. I’ve observed, as those close to me became so engaged in the dramas of soaps, that it dampens their mood for the rest of the day, as if the characters are real. I tried not to react theatrically when my brother, who was lacking in energy, returned from his daily exercise to state that, if he fell into water, he would drown as he wouldn’t be able to muster up the strength to swim – the only stretch of water he was likely to fall into that day was the bath so why this thought had even crossed his mind was a mystery. I simply asked him to be aware of how this negative thinking was drowning his spirit.
Whilst the national news remains full of the pandemic, the storms, Brexit fall-out, it is increasingly difficult (I’m going to borrow my brother’s thinking for the analogy) to stay afloat. Yes, these are extremely difficult times but I’m going to say two things:
One, it’s not impossible to stay afloat and two, we must!
Publicity is the oxygen for many thriving dramas. Think of how terrorists have provided the media with emotional, exciting and bloody news which helps them sell their product. It could be argued that, without publicity, terrorism would have no outlet and, therefore, no utility. Of course, this isn’t the easy solution to acts of horror or terror. But it’s essential to be aware of how the language used to report fuels the fire. And I’m not suggesting censoring freedom of speech in the media; I’m just advocating for a more conscious usage, or interpretation, of language so that we might alleviate the psychological effect of these dramas on our lives.
We don’t have to be our own bad-newsfeed!
We can begin by taking a conscious moment to check in with ourselves and ask. “Is this affecting me directly today? Can I take charge of my energy and well-being? Is what I’m thinking a kind thought towards myself? If not, how might I change it?”
In times of turbulence and in times of tranquility we can choose not to let our energy turn on a penny or a news headline.