I made the mistake of reading the newspaper comment section, and it brought to mind a couple of themes. First is how nostalgia distorts things. The tragedies of today resonate way more than the statistics of yesterday. So, you have people who compare the slings and arrows they are currently experiencing or the fire hose of Bad News from around he world on the one hand with the sepia toned memories of yesteryear, relieved of the clutter, chaos, anxiety, and other negativity that accompanied yesteryear as it was actually happening. It’s like thinking that the music of [pick decade] was so much better than today’s music. You’re comparing every song you’re hearing today against only those songs from the 70s or 80s that survived. Sure, “Billie Jean” was pretty catchy, but 40 years later, it’s not all mixed in with Vandenberg’s “Burning Heart.” The latest murder or robbery is pretty disturbing, especially if it happened in town. And it doesn’t really become less disturbing if I quote statistics telling you that violent crime in the U.S. is about half as prevalent now as it was 30 years ago. Things can *feel* worse even when they are objectively better.
The second was what I call cynicism masquerading as wisdom. Culturally, I think we just regard people who perceive or predict gloom and doom as being more serious than people who point out the good or even the stable and mundane. If you predict dangers that don’t materialize, people mostly don’t remember or care. Better safe than sorry, I guess. If you predict sunshine and rainbows prior to a disaster, people will roast you for it. Also, there’s a certain dog-bites-man quality to things working. It’s just not news. Man-bites-dog, on the other hand, deserves a headline. Given that bias for novelty, it’s easy to get the sense that everything is collapsing.
I don’t know that there’s a lot of help for these things. But, the anxiety associated with thinking you live in Fallen Times compared to the good old days isn’t healthy for us. I think the best we can do is probably to be aware of these dynamics, calibrate for them, and adjust our filters accordingly. Also, take a walk and talk to your friends, family, and other real people.