If you listen to the never-ending flood of information spewed at us from the 24/7 news stream, you’d think we were on the edge of Doomsday. We’re all surrounded by “bad news boxes.” There’re everywhere, in our living rooms and even in our pockets.
Sensationalism is nothing new. People have always peddled tales to each other, and we seem to crave stories even if they’re tragic. This taps into our hardwired negativity bias, an instinctual search for potentially harmful things in our surroundings. Even our penchant for gossip is an evolutionary advantage: the more information our ancestors gathered about their environment, the more likely they were to survive. It was good to know that a hostile group of fellow humans was close, or that a pack of saber-toothed tigers were in the vicinity.
But thanks to modern communication technology and its pervasive flood of information, we’re being continuously bombarded with fear-inducing stimuli. What we’re doing to ourselves today is equivalent to our ancestors inviting those saber-toothed tigers into their caves. This chronic stress can skew our thoughts and beliefs to unnaturally favor a negative worldview. Worse, we can potentially develop symptoms of PTSD.
As men in the modern age, it’s important to keep a good sense of perspective. Studies have shown that the world is actually safer than ever, especially in the developed world. Compared to the great atrocities committed over the ages before the Industrial Revolution, and even the 20th century, the 21st century has been less horrendous than our ubiquitous news coverage would have us think.
The truth is, the world is much better off with more men being mindful of the human tendency to catastrophize things. Too many of our fellow guys are succumbing to the fear-based narrative that insists the world is teetering on the abyss. Conspiracy theorists seem to be everywhere, raving about secret cabals that dominate the world. Even the “Leader of the Free World” has pandered a stark national mythology of “American carnage.”
Yes, the world can be dangerous. But ask yourself: am I really seeing the world for what it is, or embellishing things with my imagination? To borrow a phrase from A Tale of Two Cities, it is always the best of times and the worst of times. The world contains all things, encompassing all the beauty and ugliness we humans create.
It’s up to us as individuals to remember that our opinions do not always reflect reality. It’s our responsibility, as members of the human race, to maintain objectivity in the face of the bad news box bombardment and our mammalian brain’s well-meaning but narrow focus on the negative. Ultimately, the heroic mindset is one of clarity, in which one is motivated by conscious decision rather than knee-jerk reactions based on fear.
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