Natural disasters, wars, famine, inequality, terrorist attacks, political dysfunction, the list goes on. Nowadays, the world can seem like it has descended into chaos, due to the way in which the media has framed our perception of news and current affairs.
Breaking news stories generally don’t generate the same level of attention unless they portray a catastrophic incident of some sort. As a result, our brains have become wired to pay closer attention to “negative news” than “positive news.”
While this makes biological sense from a historical survival viewpoint, it doesn’t always serve us well in today’s world where we are bombarded with large amounts of negative news and information – which can send our stress response into overdrive (and exhaust our bodies and minds.) This can lead to the experiencing of compassion fatigue-a condition characterised by a gradual lessening of compassion over time.
We gradually become desensitized and/or resistant to helping people in distress due to the media saturating newspapers and news shows with decontextualised images and stories of tragedy and suffering.
So what can we do to combat compassion fatigue? How do we maintain a positive perspective amidst the depressing headlines?
Firstly, we can start by cultivating an attitude of optimism.
As Angus Hervey argues in his article –“Optimism is a choice not a reaction”, “Optimism doesn’t have to be a judgement, or a reaction to the world around you. It can be a choice, by which you navigate and affect the world around you.”
In a world where corrosive pessimism and cynicism permeates, fuelled by the media’s exploitation of our fears and worries, it can be challenging trying to switch on a positive mindset. (For help, check out this piece here. )
Although it may require an active effort initially, over time, this will become a habit which evolves into your accustomed outlook.
Bear in mind, we are not just referring to optimism that is constantly filled with “sunshine, rainbows and daisies” and completely dismisses reality. The outlook that we are encouraging you to adopt is “intelligent optimism.”
It is the state of being relentlessly positive, in spite of adversity. It is the state of being informed and remaining insatiably curious about the world and its people, amidst the disasters and struggles that may occur.
Although we are not completely immune to compassion fatigue, the most plausible action which we can undertake to combat this problem starts with us being selective about the media content which we pay attention to in our daily lives.
We may not have complete control over the type of news we are exposed to. However, we can shape our perception of the news through decluttering our social media newsfeeds. Such as “unliking” pages and “unfollowing” media outlets that are not aligned with our values and choosing to source our news from outlets like Worldie, Future Crunch, Upworthy, Global Citizen, Ted Talks, etc. just to name a few.
Have you got a favourite media outlet that presents news in a positive light or with a quirky, humorous edge?
Comment below with your suggestions!