Probably the latter, as you would like to know how the powerful storm would affect your day and your everyday responsibilities and plans. This is the same principle used by the media, practically “hooking” the audience to stay up-to-date, so that they can be aware of how dangerous certain things can be and what disruptions and changes they may cause in their lives. It’s more than evident that “wonderful weather” cannot cause as much of a disruption or danger as the storm.

A large number of articles, studies, conversations with experts in the field of psychology have the same approach and are on the same page regarding people/audiences’ reactions to bad, negative news, guided by the evolution of the human threat response. This is the cause of so-called “negativity bias”. The human mind responds to threats instinctively, both on a physical and psychological level. The emotions people experience when something poses a potential threat or danger, regardless of whether it is direct or not, are much more intense than the positive emotions.

Thus, it is difficult for media to create a good article or clickbait headline out of the fact that, for example, “Marko is doing well and there’s nothing new happening with him”. It is an unfortunate fact that negativity sells stories. People won’t find profound satisfaction in knowing that Marko is doing well and nothing new has happened to him. A much bigger, and of course negative, reaction would be caused by reading about the occurrence of a murder, a traffic accident, a natural disaster, while you are doing well and your life is currently not endangered.

When identifying something negative, it acts as a magnet. The human instinct comes into play immediately and strives to uncover the mystery and accumulate all the knowledge on the negative aspects of the subject. Additionally, reading bad news can act as a signal that we must be vigilant in order to avoid danger.

In addition to this, there is experimental evidence indicating that people react more quickly and instinctively to negative words. Research has shown that in certain laboratory experiments, when subjects were instructed to blink upon hearing a certain word, the blinking reaction was quicker for words such as “cancer”, “bomb”, or “war” as opposed to words like “baby”, “smile”, or “fun”.

Research has also shown that when something bad happens, people are more likely to blame somebody else, find a specific person who is culpable and direct their anger onto them, as opposed to, for example, supporting a person who has done something good. Criticism seems to always come before support.

Can social media be blamed for this? Up to a point, yes, but not entirely. Back in 2001, research on the topic showed that “bad is stronger than good” – far before the era where the use of social media escalated. This indicates a tendency related to human perception and human nature more than to social networks, which only serve to further prove and add weight to the thesis that “bad is stronger than good”.

Can the role of the media truly be underestimated here? Absolutely not. The extent to which the media depicts bad news as even worse, the extent to which sensationalism occupies the better part of the media environment, based on which clickbait headlines continue to multiply, demonstrates the magnitude of the share of this hungry exploitation of human nature.

From here on out, media is faced with a serious challenge – whether to give people what they desire in a certain instinctive moment, with the additional spice of misinformation or incomplete information, and feed them empty calories which could cause serious consequences, or on the other hand, to introduce and insist on balance, showing the greys of the world instead of merely the black-and-white.

We mustn’t forget that, at the end of the day, the fact that “Marko is doing well and there’s nothing new happening with him” is not to be underestimated. On the contrary, we must remember that the vast majority of things we’re afraid of will never happen to us.

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