I don’t know about you but 2016 has felt like a tough year. Maybe the toughest ever?
We’re only half way through and already there is an appropriately named subreddit “Fuck2016” to fill you in on exactly how messed up 2016 really is.
The common chat at the water cooler is that the world is doomed and there are plenty of pieces of evidence to support this.
Every time you turn on the TV some fresh horror awaits.
• Trump Vs. Clinton
• Egypt Air
• Belgian airport bombings
• Refugee crisis
• Orlando shooting
• Istanbul airport
• Zika virus
• Boris Johnson became foreign minister.
And on top of that we lost some of our favourite people.
Bowie, Ali, Prince, Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, Terry Wogan, Johan Cruyff.
But have you ever looked into the eyes of someone who is breaking this news to you?
Have you ever seen that slight thrill in their eyes?
If we are honest, we all slightly revel in disaster.
Stress and perceived threat release the same endorphins used when we are in pain. Endorphins are like morphine and they can cause a feeling of euphoria.
So yes, bad stuff even if we don’t realize it, excites us.
And don’t think the media don’t know this.
There’s an old adage in the news industry, “if it bleeds, it leads”.
News articles with negative superlatives in their headlines are clicked on 63% more than their positive counterparts.
The average Briton checks their smartphone at least 221 times a day.
So the news has changed from being a brief interlude once or twice a day, to an all-consuming disaster feed with addictive qualities.
We simply can’t look away, and as our consumption has gone up, so has our need for ever greater thrills, ever more disaster.
But what really interests me is that people are constantly mistaking this for a new phenomenon.
In psychology this is know as “Declinism”.
It’s the belief that the state of the world is now worse than it was before.
There are examples of this throughout history, all the way back to Plato (360 BCE).
To quote Gibbon in ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ (1776):
“There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify the evils, of the present times.”
As relevant today as it was 250 years ago.
Whilst technology has perhaps exasperated this character trait, it certainly didn’t invent it.
And if, unlike the rest of us, disaster porn is not attractive to you, take counsel in the fact that the world is most likely just as good or bad as it has ever been.