“Good News” IRL

I had a way that I used to try to balance out all the upsetting and anxiety provoking news stories that came my way via my Facebook feed (after already eliminating newspapers and most television news.) I purposefully “followed” and subscribed to “good news” pages and sites.

In the beginning it was a breath of fresh air. I wasn’t just reading about acts of fear, oppression and violence, but also about “random” acts of kindness. A lot of great stories popped up; kids being inspired to take action to tackle local (and global) issues ranging from recycling, to feeding the hungry, to fundraising to help provide clean water to those in need. The first couple of stories about people picking up another person’s restaurant tab or grocery store bill were nice, too – they made me smile. Soon though, these stories seemed to be sidelined, or at least presented differently. More and more stories were popping up where people told of when they or their partner had done something considerate or kind. More frequently, too, was the presentation of photos and names of all involved parties – photos taken of the “unfortunate” person and thus the recipient of “selflessness”, “random” acts of kindness, or acts that “restore one’s faith in humanity.”

There were more stories turning up that were told by individual who carried out the act, too –  “hey, I bought this homeless guy pizza and he shared it with his homeless friend so I bought him another one, wasn’t he so selfless??” They appeared as self-aggrandizing posts that begged for people to affirm the individual’s kindness, while carefully trying to shrug off this impression my mentioning some positive quality of the other “receiving” party. It started to feel like the whole movement (if I can call it that) of Random Acts of Kindness was ceasing to be about quiet acts of gentle and genuine kindness, and more about promoting individual feelings of “I’m a good person because I did X.” It started to feel contrived and gaudy. It lost its magic.

Some pages and stories never lose their power or their ability to help one grow in curiosity, understanding and compassion. ‘Humans of New York’ is a great example of this (everyone as a story if only we take the time to listen) and kids taking on tasks as a result of great compassion or a sense of injustice is another one; they inspire me to want to be better and do better. Heck, even the stories of others paying or providing for a need without the now expected photographs and naming of all participating individuals are lovely. Unfortunately, these stories seemed to be becoming the minority.

I was becoming disillusioned with “good news” stories.

Fortunately, an unexpected thing happened when I opted out of Facebook. It had been there all along, but my attention to it was heightened. Every day, many times a day, in my suburb, in my city, in my street, these “good news” stories were happening right before my eyes. All I had to do was tune in. I found that I no longer needed them fed to me via a dedicated channel because I was surrounded by them the whole time, if only I cared to look. And once I started looking, I couldn’t stop seeing. It has been beautiful. There are no photographs, there is no kudos or reams of comments applauding those involved. There is just quiet kindness, simple gestures, and some deeper, less contrived display of empathy and compassion. Feeling good about being kind to others will often be a great motivator to keep doing more of the same, but when it becomes the primary motivator, it becomes… sad; the magic is lost.

Keep your eyes open for that magic – it is still there. May you smile as you notice it.

J X

 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I remain unconvinced that it’s OK to turn away from the suffering of others 🙂

    Reply

  2. I’m not advocating turning away from suffering. I just think that these days we are flooded with so many stories of suffering that we become overwhelmed and thus less capable to act and help alleviate. My own choice to decrease news input doesn’t intend to shut me off from the suffering of others, but simply to allow in an amount in that still leaves me capable to respond to in a constructive way ❤

    Reply

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