Is everything actually so awful – or are we just making it so?
The session entitled Why is everything so awful? took a candid and at times quite frightening look at the current state of affairs, and whether media and our participation in it is potentially making matters even worse. Revered Times columnist, Hugo Rifkind, had an open conversation with Mindshare’s UK CEO, Helen McRae, and together they examined how media, and crucially social media, not only examine the world’s problems, but also potentially magnify them.
Given Rifkind’s celebrated career as a journalist and writer, a key area of debate focused on the increasingly debilitating need for journalists to cater their arguments to audiences in order to avoid feeding the “outrage engine”. Rifkind lamented a move from expressing your opinion in journalism, to seeking approval through publishing.
Despite this interesting insight into the world of journalism, the discussion naturally centred on the complex arena of social media. Rifkind even proclaimed that the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, due to their addictive nature, desperately require some form of regulation. As he put it, we are now “slaves to the systems that boost serotonin”, so is a legal framework the only solution to reverse this? He noted that these parameters may come in the form of a white paper on regulating the internet, currently in development at the Home Office.
Whether establishing some form of legal structure around social media consumption will actually have a direct effect on politics and society remains to be seen, of course. At one point the conversation explored whether, despite the often-sombre news landscape, it is our viewpoints which are making everything so awful rather than the events themselves. With research revealing that social media has in many communities led to sharp spikes in anxiety levels, we must ask ourselves the question: is everything actually so awful, or are we just making it so?