News headlines at the moment can make grim reading. Yet even in these anxiety-inducing times there are reasons to be hopeful, writes Gideon Heugh.
As fireworks heralded the start of 2020, people around the world hoped that it would be a year of good news. Barely a week later, it seemed like those hopes had been dashed.
Apocalyptic wildfires in Australia. Rising tensions between the US and Iran. Devastating flooding in Indonesia. Add to these the ongoing humanitarian crises in countries like Yemen, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo – plus a growing climate emergency – and the outlook seems bleak.
How can we maintain our peace of mind at such a time? And is it possible that, even now, we can have hope?
The importance of perspective
Instant connectivity means that we’re bombarded with news like never before – we literally carry it around in our pockets. The media will often zero in on the worst news it can find, ensuring that it’s the first thing we see. This can skew our views about the state of the world towards the negative.
There has always been bad news; it’s part of being human in a broken world. Yet things seem far worse when we fail to see them in a deeper historical context, focusing only on our own narrow period of time. I often wonder how life must have been for my great-grandparents, who lived through two world wars of a scale and devastation that can be hard for other generations to even imagine.
To add to this problem, social media helps create a climate of hyper-anxiety. Complex issues are stripped of context and presented through a narrow lens. Misinformation can be spread instantly, and opinions are posted before the full facts are available. Following the US airstrike in Iraq on 3 January, the hashtag #WW3 was trending on Twitter, despite the possibility of a global conflict being incredibly remote. Fear gains a foothold quickly, even though it’s not often based on fact.