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    417. Reasons to Be Cheerful

    Reasons to Be Cheerful is a magazine that focuses on positive news and initiatives from around the world, offering innovative solutions to the challenges our society faces.

    en-usMay 07, 2020

    About this Episode

    Humans have a built-in “negativity bias,” which means we give bad news much more power than good. Would the Covid-19 crisis be an opportune time to reverse this tendency?

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • While bad news can be captivating, it's important to be mindful of how sensationalizing news affects our attitudes and behaviors.
    • Our tendency to focus on negative events and emotions can affect our personal and work relationships. However, we can use this bias to our advantage by acknowledging it and consciously seeking out positive experiences.
    • Our ancestors developed a strong reaction to negative events as a survival mechanism, causing us to focus more on the bad than the good. Recognizing this bias can help cultivate a more positive outlook and appreciation for the good in life.
    • Good parenting may not boost a child's intelligence, but bad parenting can hinder it. During the pandemic, the negativity bias can distort our evaluation of our actions, but positive illusions can help us cope with mistakes.
    • A successful marriage requires a ratio of five positive interactions to every negative one. While sex is one positive interaction, negativity bias can hinder progress and we should be cautious of theoretical conclusions.
    • Our brain is wired to focus on negative events, but in a world that is safer than ever, it is important to train ourselves to see the positive. Don't let fear control your life.
    • Limit your exposure to negative news and focus on positive stories to combat emotional exhaustion. Media outlets should also offer the option to opt out of saturation coverage to prevent inspiring future incidents.
    • People continue to consume negative news despite claiming to avoid it. An opt-out filter could help moderate the demand. Simplifying news alerts and giving readers more control could combat the high-bad environment and alleviate fear and anxiety.
    • The BBC's prototype web extension protects users from articles containing user-defined keywords and includes a mood slider that filters articles based on the user's mood. The aim is to broaden news focus and combat social media echo chambers.
    • The B.B.C. developed a prototype news personalization tool to engage individuals who have cut themselves off from the news. The tool allows users to feel more active and less passive while reading news. Consider constructive journalism and solutions-based reporting.
    • Reasons to Be Cheerful is a magazine that focuses on positive news and initiatives from around the world, offering innovative solutions to the challenges our society faces.
    • In a world designed to promote negativity, we can find hope in problem-solving and positive solutions. Despite challenges and discomfort, we can evolve towards contentment and happiness.
    • Don't let the fear of negative response hold you back from pursuing creative endeavors. Constantly evolve and stay relevant by thinking long-term, even if it means letting go of the past for temporary acceptance.
    • The show reflects a journey from introversion to community-building. A diverse band makeup proves that differences are not a barrier to success and the power of self-perception motivates us to keep going.
    • Byrne's songs showcase how meaning can be subjective and flexible, emphasizing the importance of finding joy and humor in life, especially during times of struggle. Encourages us to view the world with an open mind.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    The Obsession with Bad News in Journalism

    In journalism, bad news often gets sensationalized and given bold headlines to capture the readers' attention, even if it's not necessarily worthy of the attention. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, there is plenty of legitimate bad news to report on. This obsession with bad news has been coined as the truism in journalism, 'If it bleeds, it leads.' John Tierney, a journalist, discovered firsthand how easy it is to drum up bad news, finding one negative thing to focus on. This begs the question, why do people want to hear all this bad stuff? While there is certainly an appetite for bad news, it's important to also be mindful of how sensationalizing news affects our attitudes and behaviors.

    The Universal Tendency of Negativity Bias and How to Harness it

    The negativity bias is a universal tendency where bad events and emotions affect us more strongly than comparable good ones. This bias not only affects our media consumption but also our personal and work relationships, as well as our view of the world. While it is not a universal law, it is close to one, according to psychologists. Even successful people, like David Byrne, are susceptible to it. However, we can escape or even harness this bias to rise above it. Roy Baumeister's paper, 'Bad Is Stronger Than Good,' explores this bias and how it affects our decisions. Now, Baumeister and John Tierney's book, 'The Power of Bad,' delves further into this fascinating and impactful phenomenon.

    The Evolutionary Power of Negativity and Its Effects on the Mind

    The power of negativity evolved as a survival mechanism to keep our ancestors alive. This evolutionary trait causes the mind to overreact to bad relative to good. Even in areas where one would expect positivity to rule, the negativity effect prevails. The mind was shaped by evolution to pay attention to risk. Studies found that living near someone increases the likelihood of becoming enemies even more than friends. This knowledge can help individuals overcome negative biases and focus on positivity. Therefore, it is important to train the mind to identify and appreciate the good, rather than solely focusing on the bad.

    The Role of Parenting in a Child's IQ and Coping with Negativity During the Pandemic

    Good parenting does not necessarily make your child smarter, but bad parenting can make them stupider. The child's genes largely determine their IQ, and bad parenting reduces the link between genes and intelligence. This insight can be helpful for families during the coronavirus pandemic when many are stuck at home together. The negativity bias, where bad events have a stronger impact than good events, can be a challenge to overcome, and it takes about four good things to overcome one bad thing. It's important to keep this in mind when evaluating the impact of your actions and how you're doing in life. When someone makes a mistake, it's helpful to offer positive illusions and not ascribe it to a character flaw.

    Maintaining a Healthy Marriage with the Gottman Ratio

    Maintaining a healthy and satisfied marriage requires a Gottman ratio of five positive interactions for every negative one. While sex is not the only positive interaction, it is an easily measurable index for monitoring the ratio. The desire to improve is a healthy and adaptive approach to life, but the negativity bias may not be necessary for this. In fact, the negativity bias can be costly, leading to unnecessary programs and worsened situations. There has been progress in human life overall, but it is important to be skeptical of theoretical conclusions from those at the top of the human scale in history.

    The Power of Bad: Overcoming Our Brain's Defense Mechanism.

    The power of bad is a defense mechanism that has outlived its use, causing us to catastrophize and imagine the worst in a world that is safer and more peaceful than ever before. Bad news has a lot of leverage, and we are constantly bombarded by fear-inducing messages from various screens. While it is important to pay attention to bad things in order to get along with people, we tend to dwell on the negative and overlook the positive. Therefore, we are living in a high-bad environment where the merchants of bad are trying to sell us their wares, knowing that fear sells. It is time to recognize the biases of our ancient brain and focus on the good in life.

    Breaking the Cycle of Negative News

    Consuming negative news can cause emotional exhaustion, and the trend towards negative news has steadily increased for years. This emphasis on negative news is due to the belief that it attracts more customers. However, a 'low-bad' diet that emphasizes positive stories and capitalizing on positive events can help combat this trend. Additionally, media saturation of mass shootings and terrorist attacks can inspire future incidents; therefore, media outlets should offer the option for readers/viewers to opt out of saturation coverage. To combat the high-bad environment, it is important to take a proactive approach and limit exposure to negative news while promoting positivity.

    Controlling the Demand for Negative News: Research and Innovations

    Despite claims of avoiding negative news, people continue to consume it. Journalists try to avoid tragedy porn, but the demand remains evident through popularity. To combat this, an opt-out filter could moderate the demand for negative news. Research shows that globally, 32% of people avoid the news, and over half of them do so because it negatively affects their mood. Staccato news alerts via social media strip away context, providing only alarming headlines, leading to greater fear and anxiety. To combat this, a team at the B.B.C. is researching ways to give readers more control over what they see, potentially moderating the high-bad environment and allowing users to navigate the homepage with greater ease.

    BBC Prototype Extension Filters News Content and Combats Echo Chambers

    The BBC has developed a prototype web extension that blurs articles containing user-defined keywords and displays a warning, with the option to override the filter at any time. Additionally, the extension includes a mood slider that filters articles based on the user's mood. The prototype was developed for research purposes only, and there are no plans to implement it. The project aims to widen users’ focus on news and combat social media echo chambers, giving users a sense of the stories they may not know about. While the small round of user testing revealed initial hesitancy, testers ultimately found the extension to be a helpful shield, allowing them to feel safer on the BBC News homepage.

    B.B.C. develops personalization tool for conscious news consumption

    The B.B.C. R&D team developed a news personalization tool prototype, however received criticism as news is thought to be unfiltered. The tool is aimed at bringing back individuals who have cut themselves off from the news, and allowing them to engage with news in a conscious way. The prototype was successful in allowing users to feel more active and less passive while reading news. Although not a finished product, the prototype was created to start a conversation about how to tone down the high-bad environment news outlets help create. Constructive journalism could be a solution, although currently a hard sell commercially. David Byrne has created a web-based solutions-journalism magazine that highlights positive change initiatives around the world.

    David Byrne's Reasons to Be Cheerful: A Positive and Informative Online Magazine

    David Byrne's Reasons to Be Cheerful is an online magazine focusing on positive initiatives, policies and grassroots movements happening all over the world. Byrne's inspiration to start this magazine came from his own negativity bias. He started collecting positive news articles and eventually evolved it into a full-blown online magazine. The magazine covers topics like science, technology, economics, transportation, and civic engagement. Byrne himself has written articles on sensible housing policy, looking at cities like Vienna and Singapore. In these places, the local government started building housing for their citizens that were open to lower-income families and people. But if people became middle-class or upper-class, they weren't required to leave. This led to a mix of people and incomes in the same building and all over town. These solutions offer an antidote to the problems our society faces every day.

    Overcoming Challenges in a Negative Digital World

    The Challenges in undoing entrenched policies might discourage us but problems are solvable. The Reasons to Be Cheerful project is a tonic for tumultuous times. Our time is indeed tumultuous, but the digital world has amplified our innate tendency to be drawn to negative things, bad news, and conspiracies. Information is created to optimize or take advantage of the way our spaces are designed. While it's a self-determining system, agents, companies, and others realize that putting out more conspiracies and scary stuff brings in more clicks and eyeballs. Evolution happens, and people change, finding contentment and happiness. The younger version of David Byrne appeared to be on the Asperger spectrum, uncomfortable in social situations and trying to figure out human behavior.

    Overcoming Discomfort and Staying Relevant: David Byrne's Insights on Creative Endeavors and Civic Engagement

    David Byrne shares his personal experience of how he slowly overcame his discomfort around strangers and engaged in civic activism. He also reflects on how bad events tend to have a stronger impact on us than good events, which can influence our creative output. He gives tips on how to not let the possibility of negative response affect our creative endeavors by thinking long-term and constantly evolving. Holding on to the past may get us temporary acceptance, but evolving and changing will keep us relevant and successful in the long run.

    David Byrne's American Utopia: A Story of Personal and Civic Growth

    David Byrne's Broadway show American Utopia evolved from an album and tour and tells a story of personal growth and civic engagement. The show reflects Byrne's journey from being introverted to being part of a diverse community. The band makeup is polyglot - with many races and genders - showing that we can work together regardless of differences. One moment in the show highlights the power of perception - a song called 'Everybody's Coming to My House' is written from the perspective of a socially awkward person, reflecting Byrne's younger self. Byrne believes that if he keeps himself interested, there will be others who are interested. Success may be varied, but he can keep going.

    David Byrne's Musical Approach to Humor

    David Byrne's approach to music and humor allows for meaning to be subjective and flexible. His song, 'High School Choir,' exemplifies how a group of individuals can reinterpret and experience a piece of music in their own unique way. Byrne's deliberately comical songs serve to remind us that our perspectives are just one of many, and that there are countless ways of interpreting the world around us. With the ongoing pandemic, it is especially important to find moments of joy and humor in our daily lives. Byrne's music offers a light-hearted approach to the struggles of life and encourages us to view the world with a more open mind.

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