If you feel unsafe, if you feel like you’re being watched, or that someone – somewhere is out to get you, those feelings are grounded in reality. People are constantly being bombarded with news and messages that contradict any feelings of safety.
You see, one of the many benefits of the modern world is having a 24 hours news cycle. You can never not be informed. Whether you are tuning into one of many news channels, subscribing to one of the dozens of newspapers, downloading one of a million news apps to push notifications directly to you regarding breaking news, you’re always going to know what is going on in the world. For better, or for worse – of course. We are going to be far more informed than ever before and this is a blessing in one way – it allows us to know what is going on across the world. It allows us to think about others. From Libya, to Los Angeles, it takes seconds to keep informed. The downside of all of this? Well – the 24 hours news cycle can be a curse on us. Negative news doesn’t inspire positive emotions, and it can be quite distressing to see terror and violence discussed so often by news channels – especially with news commentators that aren’t empathetic. This negativity can leave a huge mark on us. What’s more, being constantly informed about woe, worry and violence across the world can give us a mixed up view of the world that can hinge towards being overly negative. So, if you’re scared – if you’re fearing something, if you’re scared of a wrongful death or crime – if you’re worried about the world – there is a big reason behind that. If you’re subscribing to news, you might also be subscribing to their focus on negativity.
Because of advances in technology, the news is quick in getting to us – but this can mean a focus on terrible things, instead of a story. A focus on a crime instead of reasons. Speed is the bane of news, but it is also the reason why 24/7 news cycles exist, and they do rely on speed. The news cycle can’t exist without speed, or a news channel loses out. This can result in news stories arriving, having been barely-edited. It used to be that journalists and news anchors spent a long time on a news piece to construct a story, and deliver it in the right manner. Nowadays, we get the full-fat news, and while we should take into account free-speech issues and censorship, a lot of people can’t handle this. What’s more, it will affect the way we think. It used to be that a story didn’t need to be embellished by scare stories, death stats and other things – it used to be that the story was enough to live and breathe on its own. With the 24/7 news cycles and channels, that is not the case anymore, they need the news up as fast as it can, and they need to examine every single aspect of it.
Ever since the first Gulf War and CNN’s constant coverage of events, the basis of 24/7 news and ‘overreporting’ was conceived. No matter what had happened in the world, news channels would report every inch of it, again and again. With this came competition, CNN’s format was adopted – but there was a problem. Not every issue was an entire war, meaning that some issues would face a lot of reporting bias – some channels would seek to defuse situations, while others would do their best to create and stoke fear to build up a following and increase the view count along with shares. 24-hour news channels will make a point and argue it through the course of an entire day. In many instances, there won’t be an opposing voice. This can be worrying, and it can explain a lot about modern society. There can be plenty of stories on major news channels that cite no source and are based on no evidence but the views of the journalist or anchor describing or portraying the story. The major problem we get is when news channels obsess over violent stories. These stories are dramatically and purposefully desensitized for a reason, and that’s because when they are censored, they lose out to gossip columns. Unfortunately, news channels feel the need to describe terrifying and dramatic events without a hold for any kind of pause. There is no space or time for journalism, but more a presentation of events. This rapid spinning wheel of uncensored and violent events can lead us to believe, en-masse – that the world is becoming a more dangerous place day by day.
Well, is the world becoming more of a dangerous place? There are two contradictory answers to that question.
One thing is true though, having explained the nature of the 24/7 news cycles, we realize their dependence on violent news stories. This will obviously mean that we hear about the worst news stories and the most upsetting events on a more frequent basis than ever before. As life goes on, this means that we are presented with ideas and news stories that showcase terrible events – which can mean we are led to believe that these events are happening more often. That might not be the case though, simply put – it might just mean that stories are more actively reported in this day and age than ever before. In the 90’s, would a news channel speak about a bombing in Lebanon? Likely not, but now – you can bet your bottom dollar than any violence has a high place on a news listing, no matter where the violence takes place. Such is what news stories depend on to get viewers. We can easily mistake an increase in the reporting of violent events for an actual increase in violent events. It is only natural to think that, after all.
In fact, the raw data shows that we are living in relatively peaceful times. Of course, that doesn’t mean we should settle for anything less than absolute peace, and of course it still means that the foreign policies of major countries are still putting lives under threat, and of course, it means that there will still be a threat of terrorism – but violence is something on the decline.
We can use Western Europe as a good footprint when we look at the data. If we focus on the issue of terrorism attacks, while there is more cause and focus on them than ever before – they are nowhere near as dangerous as they were during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Good news? Somewhat, but it nulls the view that the world is a more dangerous place than before. Attacks are certainly sporadic and not uncommon, but claim few lives in the big picture. When we compare this to the stats from the 70’s and 80’s, deaths of this sort are on a huge decline, representing nothing but an improvement in our safety. Despite all of this – horrific attacks showcase the worst in life, but also bring out the best in response to them. We should change our focus to fit in line with that.
So, is the world more dangerous than in previous years? Not necessarily, but it depends on your own views and biases. For a soldier, the world might be getting dangerous – but for the average Joe? It won’t be, not really! However, if we focus on the negativity of the world, we can certainly come to the conclusion that everything is getting worse for us all.