Every day, we are tempted to binge on negativity.
It is our society’s most seductive attention magnet. Whether it comes through our screens, in our ear buds, on physical media, our out of the mouths of other people, it has grown more and more difficult to see past the downpour of pessimistic thoughts.
According to the definitive study on negativity bias from a psychophysiology journey, participants would not only spend more time viewing negative words and images, but they also registered more eye blinks during the process.
Meaning there was more cognitive activity. They simply couldn’t avert their gaze. It was wired into them evolutionarily.
It reminds me of a short but hilarious scene from the animated movie about a bug’s life:
Harry is a mosquito who gets attracted to a deadly bug zapper lantern under the roof of a porch. Don’t look at the light, his friend warns. But he is so entranced by the light that he is rendered powerless.
I can’t help it, it’s so beautiful.
Harry touches it, gets zapped, screams waaaahoooooow, and then falls to his death into a rusty tin can.
That’s us. Every single day. We are the bugs drifting into the zapper light.
But despite this highly salient feature of human nature, it is still possible for us to interrupt the spiral of negativity before it gets out of control. We can take back the power.
Instead of watching the news like zombies and seeing a reflection of our lives in imminent danger, we can choose to do a media fast. We can actually turn off the goddamn television for once and actually reconnect to the person sitting next to us instead.
Simpsons did a great episode about this years ago:
Your cable television is experiencing difficulties. Please do not panic. Resist the temptation to read or talk to loved ones. Do not attempt sexual relations, as years of television radiation have left your genitals withered and useless.
But the real warning should sound something more like this:
This is not the moment to pore over the ills of the world. Do not mistake our pessimistic despair for wisdom. Free yourself from the tyranny of negativity. And over time, as you increase your ability to deliberately keep yourself out of the conversation, the drama will be outgrown and left behind.
Your fears will fade as you focus on the many positive resources available to you.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What drains your optimism?