Do you sometimes despair about humanity because it seems there are far more bad people than good? Are we primarily selfish individuals, thinking only about our own needs? Or is this cynical belief just because we spend so much time online? The truth is more complicated!
Anyone who spends most of their days online in chatrooms and forums is more likely to feel that humanity is going to hell in a handbasket. People can be so hateful to one another under the cover of anonymity the internet provides. But those who actually get out there and do real-life stuff are more likely to believe that most people are good and do their best.
One reason for this is the “echo chamber” effect. Search engines learn our likes and dislikes and the things we click on, so the first things we see when we switch on our screens are things that interest us. And so you get individuals finding their “their people” online. So far, so good, but problems can soon arise.
Posters sitting safely behind the anonymity of their keyboards can target individuals and egg one another on to write more and more unpleasant, bullying and outrageous things. Bad behaviour is condoned, a “mob mentality” can snowball, and it can seem as if the whole planet consists of nothing but evil trolls waiting to pile onto their next target.
Social media and the 24-hour news cycle draw our attention to every disastrous event. We feel as if bad stuff is happening in our own backyards, and this leads to a permanent sense of uneasiness. The self-reinforcement of internet “enclaves” and our continuous access to bad news appears to be a toxic combination that can reinforce a belief that there are more bad people than good.
Another reason for believing that more people are bad than good is our inbuilt negativity bias. Thanks to a trick of evolution handed down from our prehistoric ancestors, we pay more attention to negative information than positive. In ancient times, being alert to danger was our key to survival and today, we still tend to dwell on the bad stuff rather than the good.
Our negativity bias causes us to dwell on a bad event or comment even when a much greater proportion of positive events has occurred. For example, suppose you’ve spent the day with friends and had a fantastic time, but during the day, someone made a comment that upset you. That’s what you’re likely to remember the day for and categorise it as bad, rather than the generally positive experience.
We must remember that things are rarely as bad as we think they are. We need to understand that our brains naturally incline towards noticing, processing, and remembering the bad stuff, but this is an overreaction. So we have to find ways to balance our negative bias with positivity. If you feel overwhelmed with negative thoughts, Bach Flower Mix 65 can help to drive away the dark clouds and balance your emotions.
Some other ways to counterbalance our negative bias include:
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