By Steven Norris
When it comes to the news, you have likely heard the adage: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Not too long ago, my family turned on the evening news out of Atlanta (something we rarely do). After the fourth consecutive story about a homicide or some other form of violent crime, we could take it no longer and decided to turn the television off.
This kind of preference for bad news is not an accident. Television revenue is driven by advertising, which is dependent on viewership. Studies show that “bad news” consistently brings in more views than “good news.” This past weekend, I came across an interesting article online that sought too unpack this “negativity bias” — the tendency for negative information and experiences to overwhelm the positive.
Studies have shown that viewers have stronger physiological reactions to negative news than positive and such pessimism can even become addictive. Journalist Karen Ho helped to popularize the phrase “doomscrolling” to refer to “the masochistic practice of compulsively scouring the internet in search of ever more terrible information.” This behavior is exploited by news directors, political pundits, and advertisers to boost popularity and views. While we often say that we would prefer to hear good news stories, the data does not back up such a claim.
All of this leads me to the question: how does one share his or her faith in such a negative milieu? For Christians, the message of Jesus Christ is referred to as the “gospel” (a word literally meaning “good news”). Easter is arguably the climax of the church year and followers of Jesus often want to share the “good news” of the hope that he offers. Such online sharing is likely to get a lukewarm reception at best, as friends will likely scroll right past such posts in search of the latest tragedy.
Now, maybe more than ever, Christians must seize the opportunity to BE the good news rather than merely tell the good news. I am a firm believer that actions will always speak louder than words and we must take advantage of every opportunity to testify to our faith through concrete actions of service, generosity, and work for justice.
Just this week, a friend knew that our family had been going through some difficult circumstances. They showed up on our doorstep with a basket of some of our favorite goodies just because they wanted to “bless us.” They didn’t just get what was on sale or what was easy, but sought out some of our favorite snacks and goodies. Do we even know our friends, co-workers, and neighbors well enough to do something like that for them?
This Easter, let us embody the hope of resurrection life in tangible ways: invite a neighbor over for dinner, offer to watch their kids so that parents can have a date night, bake some cookies or homemade bread, or make a gift basket filled with some yummy snacks. Whatever you choose, do it with love and some real flesh and blood positivity. Compared to the negativity typically swirling around, I bet that people will pay attention.